Dear Deer Park Families -
As we get ready to return our students to full-time instruction next Monday, I know there have been some concerns with the Ohio Department of Health switching Hamilton County to "red" on their Public Health Advisory System.
Every Friday morning, I participate in a conference call with local superintendents and the Hamilton County Public Health Commissioner. I wanted to share with all of you a summary of that conversation from this morning to help you understand why Hamilton County is "red" and what that actually means.
There are 7 different indicators that are looked at in regards to the County Alert Level system in the State of Ohio. When a county meets 4 or 5 of the 7 indicators, the county is deemed to be in alert level 3, which is indicated as red in the State's alert system. That is where Hamilton County currently stands. Below I've described the four indicators that Hamilton County met that caused us to turn red.
- New Cases per Capita - Hamilton County has triggered this indicator since the beginning of the pandemic. If you have over 50 cases per 100,000 people, this indicator is flagged. We are currently at 90.2 cases per 100,000. At the height of the pandemic we were at 150 cases and at the low end of the pandemic, we've been at 80 cases.
- Proportion of Cases In a Non-Congregate Setting - This indicator is flagged if over 50% of the positive cases are from outside a congregate setting over the last three weeks. Congregate settings are places where people gather in close proximity and they include prisons, homeless shelters, group homes, schools, workplaces, etc. This indicator has also been flagged since the beginning of the pandemic. Currently, this number sits at 92.3%. Again, this indicator means that 92.3% of the positive cases come from outside of a congregate setting. This is actually a good sign for schools, but it also is an indicator of community spread.
- Sustained Increase in Outpatient Hospital Visits - This indicator has been flagged in Hamilton County a few times throughout the pandemic. For this indicator to be tripped, there has to be an increasing trend over 5 consecutive days in the number of people going to a health care provider with COVID symptoms who then receive a confirmed or suspected COVID diagnosis. They are looking for 5 day trends that have occurred over the last three weeks. While this indicator is currently flagged, it's about to fall off. This indicator was tripped based on data from 9/9 through 9/16. By next Thursday, Oct. 8th, we will be outside that three-week window and the metric will no longer be flagged.
- Sustained Increase in Hospital Admissions - This indicator is flagged if there is an increasing trend over 5 consecutive days in the number of new hospitalizations due to COVID over the last three weeks. This metric was met because on 9/21 there was an average of 1.1 hospital admissions due to COVID and on 9/26 this jumped to an average of 2.7 hospital admissions of COVID. The last reported number, which was on 9/29, was already back down to 1.43. If the declining trend continues, this metric will also be dropped in a couple of weeks.
With all that being said, I think there are a couple of other important statements that were made during my call. Hamilton County Health Commissioner, Greg Kesterman, stated that in his opinion, Hamilton County is still looking very strong and stable. He also said that he believes that next Thursday, Hamilton County will fall back to alert level 2, which is designated orange. This is because the sustained increase in hospital visits metric that is currently flagged will fall off.
I know that having school during a pandemic isn't easy and having students return to full-time, 5 day per week instruction on Monday can cause some angst and worry. However, I continue to believe that all of the data, including both Hamilton County data as well as empirical data from surrounding school districts, supports the decision to bring our students back full-time. If things change and the data no longer supports that decision at any time over the course of the next 8 months while we are in school, we will reassess and make the decision that is best for our district at that time.
As always, if a student and/or family feels uncomfortable attending full-time, face-to-face instruction, our remote-learning option is available to students. If you are interested in remote learning, please contact Dr. Stace Orso at firstname.lastname@example.org.