COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The week-to-week increase in COVID-19 cases reported by Ohio K-12 schools bucked a general downward trend since late January, coming in at more than 3,000 this week.

The Ohio Department of Health on Thursday reported 3,058 new coronavirus cases among students and staff members. This is close to double last week’s increase of 1,773, and it’s more than 3.5 times the previous week’s increase of 847.

Schools report cases among students and staff to ODH on Tuesdays, reflecting the week ending on the previous Sunday. ODH releases numbers on Thursdays at 2 p.m.

Case criteria

  • Full-time or part-time students and staff who have tested positive for or been diagnosed with COVID-19. Infections were caught in and out of school.
  • Staff members include 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. NBC4’s count of new cases every week reflects the change in “cumulative” cases. More info

    Thursday’s data reflects the week ending Sunday, March 7, and it includes infections caught in and out of school. The school year total now stands at 65,785.

    This past week was the first in which all schools that opted to vaccinate their staff members distributed at least the first dose to them.

    1,536 (55%) of 2,774 schools, districts, private schools, vocational schools, preschools and other non-college institutions that the state tracks have reported cases. That is six more schools than last week.

    42,560 (65%) of Ohio’s school cases are students and 23,225 (35%) are staff members, which include teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff.

    Cincinnati Public Schools, a district of more than 34,000 students, leads the state with 996 cases. Six Columbus area school districts are in the top 10.

    Quarantine, testing announcements

    Gov. Mike DeWine announced two significant developments for schools on Thursday. First, Ohio is no longer requiring students to quarantine from extracurriculars if they had an incidental exposure to a COVID-positive person in a classroom.

    “What we’re saying today is, no longer will they have to quarantine from those sports or those extracurricular activities,” the governor said during his coronavirus briefing.

    ODH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said two things allow the state to make this decision for student athletes. First, spring sports are mostly outside, and second, “Our K-12 students have an outstanding track record of wearing masks and following safe practices in the classroom.

    “This allows us to be confident that a student who is currently not required to quarantine for a school-based exposure is at very low risk and can continue to participate in organized sports activities as long as they remain symptom-free and follow all applicable sports guidance,” Vanderhoff said.

    He added that students who are exposed to COVID-19 outside the classroom can end their 14-day quarantine after 10 days without testing or after seven days with a negative test conducted on day five or later. This revised guidance lines up with state quarantine rules that have already been in effect for most other Ohioans.

    DeWine’s second significant announcement is that the state will ship more than 200,000 at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests in the coming days to educational service centers “to increase confidence and safety in our schools.”

    “We encourage our schools to take advantage of this resource and develop aggressive testing plans,” he said, “We will continue to support these efforts for as long as necessary.”