Ohio schools report record new COVID-19 cases as DeWine hopes compliance to orders can return students to classrooms


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday continued his pleas for Ohioans to follow coronavirus protocols in hopes that increased compliance may decrease new cases of COVID-19 and get students back into physical classrooms.

Meanwhile, Ohio schools reported a record 5,281 new cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, according to the latest weekly numbers from the Ohio Department of Health. That’s the largest weekly increase in cases this school year, bringing the total to 33,499.

Cumulative COVID-19 cases reported by Ohio schools:

  • Sept. 17: 319
  • Sept. 24: 739 (+420)
  • Oct. 1: 1,274 (+535)
  • Oct. 8: 1,870 (+596)
  • Oct. 15: 2,739 (+869)
  • Oct. 22: 3,826 (+1,087)
  • Oct. 29: 5,058 (+1,232)
  • Nov. 5: 7,068 (+2,010)
  • Nov. 12: 9,876 (+2,808)
  • Nov. 19: 14,593 (+4,717)
  • Nov. 26: 19,302 (+4,709)
  • Dec. 3: 23,052 (+3,750)
  • Dec. 10: 28,218 (+5,166)
  • Dec. 17: 33,499 (+5,281)

Case data is reported to ODH on Sundays to be published on Thursdays, so cases published Thursday reflect last week. See more information on the data in the dropdown below:

Schools report cases among students and staff to ODH on Tuesdays, and ODH releases numbers on Thursdays at 2 p.m. However, the numbers a school reports to ODH may not be as recent as Tuesday.

Case criteria

  • Full-time or part-time students and staff members who have tested positive for or been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Staff includes teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff.
  • Excludes students/staff who are completely remote, but includes them if they were “on-site” while infectious.

  • ODH reports “new” and “cumulative” cases. Cases only move over to “cumulative” once the person is no longer COVID-positive. This means the number of “new” cases each week is not guaranteed to be the weekly difference between “cumulative” totals. More info

    20,518 (61%) of Ohio’s school cases are students and 12,981 (39%) are staff members, which include teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff.

    1,424 Ohio schools have reported at least one coronavirus case this school year, an increase of 37 since last week. That is 51% of the 2,773 schools, districts, private schools, vocational schools, preschools and other non-college institutions the state tracks.

    Cincinnati Public Schools, a district of more than 36,000 students, leads the state with 545 cases. Five Columbus area school districts are in the top 10, including four in the top six.

    DeWine hopes for return to in-person learning

    As of Thursday, 233 of Ohio’s 609 public school districts are open five days a week for in-person learning, according to the Ohio Department of Education. 204 are fully remote, 171 are on a hybrid schedule, and one is fully closed.

    Gov. DeWine said during his Thursday coronavirus briefing that those numbers roughly translate into 27.9% of Ohio’s public school students learning in person, 45.2% learning remotely and 26.1% learning in a hybrid model.

    "If you don't have a reason yet to wear a mask, to keep distance, to not eat with anybody that doesn't live in your own household," DeWine said, then getting K-12 students back into the classroom should be one.

    "We need our kids back in school. And they can't be in school when we have bus drivers out. They can't be in school when we have teachers who can't fill the classroom and we've got kids quarantined," the governor said.

    ODH on Thursday reported 11,412 new COVID-19 cases, 117 new deaths from the disease and 370 new hospitalizations. In just 17 days of December, 121,404 Ohioans have gotten sick from the virus, 788 have died, and 3,445 have been hospitalized from it. Those figures rank first, fifth and fourth, respectively, among the months.

    DeWine said Ohio is not seeing "the Thanksgiving bump that we feared," and he hopes coronavirus cases are plateauing on their way to a decrease. When that happens, he said, he hopes schools can return to consistent in-person learning.

    "I think our goal should be to get kids back in school. But we cannot do this, we cannot do this with rates as high as they are today," the governor said.

    DeWine acknowledged that some students learn better remotely, but he said that virtual or hybrid learning presents more challenges, like keeping track of students logging into their online lessons.

    DeWine also said in his Thursday briefing that “it shouldn’t shock anyone” that Ohio schools have been left to make decisions for themselves instead the state issuing sweeping commands. Instead, schools have followed guidance and advice from ODH, national health agencies and local health departments.

    "Throughout this we have left it up to the schools, the local school board, the local superintendent, the community to decide what they are doing," DeWine said.

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