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‘We are optimistic’: COVID-19 numbers continue to fall in schools

UPDATED: Sun., Feb. 20, 2022

On the first day of the 2021-2022 school year at the brand-new Shaw Middle School on Thursday, Sept. 2., students are shown masked and in-person for classroom learning.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
On the first day of the 2021-2022 school year at the brand-new Shaw Middle School on Thursday, Sept. 2., students are shown masked and in-person for classroom learning. (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

One day after Gov. Jay Inslee set a March 21 target for the end of the state’s indoor mask mandate, the latest COVID-19 metrics in Spokane County schools appeared to validate that decision.

Across the area, numbers posted on Friday showed sharply lower cases from last week.

On Friday, Spokane Public Schools reported that 106 students and staff who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 entered a school building this week. The district also reported that 172 people were quarantined.

Those numbers are nearly half what was reported last week: 189 cases and 332 people quarantined.

Only five weeks ago, the district had 941 people test positive and 2,332 under quarantine.

The area’s second-largest district, Central Valley, reported on Friday that 132 students and staff had tested positive in the previous 10 days. Three weeks ago, that number was 1,368.

Numbers are also down significantly in the Mead School District, where positive tests in the previous 10 days are 138. That’s down from 883 three weeks earlier.

Central Valley and other regional school districts disclose case counts differently than Spokane Public Schools. At CVSD, for example, all students with a confirmed case of COVID-19 are reported, while Spokane Public Schools reports confirmed cases only when a student or staff member had entered a school building while sick.

The downward trend was consistent among those districts that updated their dashboards on Friday.

The county’s fourth-largest district, Cheney, reported only 68 cases since Feb. 7, while West Valley showed 76 cases since Feb. 5.

The East Valley School District, which briefly moved its secondary students to online learning after a COVID spike, saw its lowest numbers in several months: 37 students and staff during the last seven days.

The last update at Deer Park, dated Feb. 11, showed 78 cases in the previous 14 days. Riverside’s dashboard, updated every Monday, recorded 46 cases in the previous 14 days.

School leaders acknowledged that the March 21 date may arrive too soon for some and too late for others.

However, most districts sent letters to families on Thursday and Friday promising they would adhere to health and safety protocols, and stressed that they will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials.

After Inslee’s announcement, state schools superintendent Chris Reykdal said the greater availability of vaccines, plus rapid testing and awareness, will allow schools to take another step toward normalcy.

The Washington Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, will continue to support and follow advice from health officials, union President Larry Delaney said Friday.

“Regardless of what the issue is since the beginning of the pandemic, WEA has supported and followed the advice of public health experts,” Delaney said. “We are optimistic and put our trust in the projections they are putting out there.”

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