Health officials announced on Tuesday they are now recommending virtual school learning as Lake County is experiencing “substantial” community transmission of COVID-19.
“We have been seeing ‘substantial’ community transmission of COVID-19 in Lake County for seven consecutive days, with rates of new cases that we haven’t seen since the spring,” said Mark Pfister, Executive Director at the Lake County Health Department.
“We continue to work closely with our school superintendents to equip them with data and tools to make informed decisions. Now the decision is up to school districts, to use their expertise and authority to make this difficult decision for the health and safety of their school communities and the greater Lake County community as a whole,” Pfister said.
The Lake County Health Department issued a statement on Tuesday saying they were recommending public and private K-12 schools in Lake County transition to virtual learning.
“This is not a recommendation we take lightly,” said Pfister. “Schools are being asked to utilize virtual learning not because schools are the main driver of our new infections, but because the levels of community transmission warrant extra measures to keep our students, staff, and their families safe,” Pfister said.
“Schools alone cannot bear this burden—we must all take personal responsibility to keep this virus from spreading in any way that we can,” he added.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Lake County rose above 14 cases per 100,000 residents. Since then, the rate has risen sharply to over 20 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the health department.
The Northern Illinois Return to School Metrics plan used in Lake County recommends the following:
- Virtual learning is recommended when there is substantial community transmission, meaning more than 14 cases per 100,000 residents.
- Hybrid learning is recommended when there is moderate community transmission, meaning between 7-14 cases per 100,000 residents.
- In-person learning is recommended when there is minimal community transmission, meaning less than 7 cases per 100,000 residents
The health department’s recommendation will return to hybrid learning once the county returns to the ‘moderate’ level for seven consecutive days, officials said.
The health department said they are also monitoring COVID-19 testing turnaround time, which has been relatively stable since the summer.
“Lake County schools collaboratively work with the Illinois Department of Public Health, Lake County Health Department, and the Illinois State Board of Education to review, monitor, and discuss the guidelines and metrics before any decisions are made,” said Roycealee Wood, Regional Superintendent of Schools.
“The safety of our students, staff, and communities are always first and foremost. Opening schools is a priority; however, if we want schools to reopen and remain open we must all do our part. It’s relatively easy if you wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands frequently,” Wood said.
“These are challenging and unprecedented times, but with collective behaviors we can slow spread and achieve our goals,” Wood added.
The Lake County Schools Decision Dashboard can be found at www.lakecountyil.gov/c19schools and is updated daily Monday through Friday.