Health officials said on Thursday that COVID-19 metrics are indicating McHenry County schools should transition to virtual learning as the county experiences a rapid increase in cases.
“Our data are showing a rapid increase in cases compared to previous weeks,” said Ryan Sachs, Epidemiologist for the McHenry County Department of Health. “Sharp increases like we’re seeing are an early indicator of increased community spread.”
Health officials said the school metrics are used to better inform superintendents about when to transition between virtual, hybrid and in-person learning models.
Those metrics are now indicating that schools should consider returning to virtual learning, the McHenry County Department of Health said.
“The school metrics are only used to advise student learning models and is not intended to determine school personnel policies,” the department said in a statement.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases in McHenry County rose above 14 cases per 100,000 residents on October 8. Since then, the rate has risen sharply to over 25 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the health department.
The Northern Illinois Return to School Metrics plan used in McHenry 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
Testing positivity has also exceeded the 8% threshold for hybrid learning.
The McHenry County Department of Health reported 207 cases for the week of September 27 and then 313 cases during the week of October 4.
“Public health experts have advised us on the direction our region is heading,” said Dan Johnson, Superintendent for Johnsburg School District 12.
“Communicating with our districts’ families and staff as community spread increases is critical to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our school family. We will continue to keep our families updated as we learn more about this rapidly changing situation,” he said.
“The schools are environments in which extensive mitigation measures have been put in place to keep staff and students safe. When the students and staff leave school and go into their communities or neighborhoods, such mitigation measures may not be so comprehensive,” said Susan Karras, Director of Public Health Nursing for the McHenry County Department of Health.
The McHenry County School Metrics Dashboard can be found here and is updated daily Monday through Friday.