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Public schools being tracked by state for coronavirus outbreaks

“There’s no question when you have this much community spread that there will be people inside of the school that are positive," said one official.

NEW ORLEANS — It’s a list the state department of health puts out that tracks COVID-19 outbreaks. It includes places like bars, restaurants and gyms and other places where community spread is concerning. As of Tuesday morning, K-12 public schools are now on that list.

“I think this is going to be a big topic of public interest going forward,” said Assistant State Health Officer, Doctor Joseph Kanter.

Kanter says the addition is because of what’s expected to happen as school openings multiply.  

“There’s no question when you have this much community spread that there will be people inside of the school that are positive. You just do the math and it’s inevitable,” said Kanter.

Just days after going back to class, the St. Charles Parish school district notified parents of two positive coronavirus cases, one at Norco Elementary, the other at Destrehan High. The school district isn’t releasing whether those people are students or employees. While community spread is concerning, Governor John Bel Edwards says classes can resume.

“I’m not prepared to say that it’s too early to open, but I will tell you we are going to be watching very closely,” said Edwards.

Some districts, like New Orleans Public Schools, are beginning virtually, while others, like Jefferson Parish, are simply delaying the start of school. Either way, Dr. Kanter says families shouldn’t expect smooth sailing this fall semester.

“There might be cases that pop up. There might need to be quarantine and there might be times when their child has to stay home for a week or two,” said Kanter.

Dr. Kanter says once positive cases are identified, the department of health will work with school districts to figure out the next steps. While only one outbreak is linked to a public school so far, Dr. Kanter expects that to increase and says parents need to take precautions before students step foot in the classroom.

“The best thing, any family can do to improve the safety inside of a school is to do their part outside of the school to keep the risk of transmission low,” said Kanter.

 The Louisiana Department of Health’s COVID-19 outbreak list is updated on Wednesdays.  

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