After an initial increase coinciding with the return of school, many area public school districts are beginning to report fewer COVID-19 cases nearly one month in. At Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the number of new cases among students and staff jumped in mid-September but fell slightly this past week, district data show.
Nearly 63% of CMS principals, teachers and staff have self-reported they are vaccinated, according to information the district released after the first week of asking employees to voluntarily verify whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
CMS began requesting vaccination information from its nearly 19,000 employees on Sept. 20. As of Friday, 14,112 employees had completed the survey, and 11,950 responded that they are fully vaccinated. Another 2,162 responded that they are unvaccinated, according to CMS.
A spokesperson for the district said employees are still able to upload vaccination proof and the figures may change.
Employees who have not yet completed the survey will be considered unvaccinated, according to CMS. Testing of unvaccinated staff began Monday at about half of the district’s elementary schools, in addition to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Academy and Metro School.
State and local health leaders have said tracking vaccination among staff who interact with children and using regular COVID-19 testing to screen unvaccinated adults will help reduce the spread of the virus in schools. CMS, like most public school districts across North Carolina, requires children and adults wear masks indoors.
The use of masks has considerably reduced the need for mandatory coronavirus quarantine in local schools. According to the latest data from CMS, fewer than 10 school sites had 25 or more people in quarantine over the last two weeks.
Across eight counties in the Charlotte region, the trajectory of COVID-19 cases among students and school employees is showing modest improvement, according to a new analysis of district data by The Charlotte Observer.
School COVID cases
School districts in North Carolina decide for themselves what to include and how often to provide public data updates on COVID-19 cases among students and teachers. That limits the ability to make comparisons between the school systems.
Using federal data on student and staff figures by district, along with each school system’s COVID reporting dashboard, an Observer analysis of those numbers shows generally a decline of positive cases identified in schools across the Charlotte region.
That data includes cases detected in September among those in public schools in Mecklenburg, Iredell, Cabarrus, Gaston, Anson, Stanly, Rowan and Union counties. Included in the analysis are positive cases considered active or new, not cumulative totals.
For example, earlier this month, in Anson County, the school’s data showed 105 cases among students and staff over a one-week period — roughly 3% of people in the school buildings regularly. But as of Monday, that weekly number has fallen considerably, with only 42 additional cases detected. Gaston County schools also saw a significant drop in a similar period, reporting 119 new cases over the last seven days, compared to 233 new cases the week prior.
Most school districts included in the analysis saw higher numbers of positive cases in the first couple weeks of school than compared to late September. Public schools in Gaston, Iredell, Rowan and Mecklenburg counties over the last week each reported new cases among fewer than 0.5% of all students and staff.
In CMS, the number of those in the school population testing positive has fluctuated since classrooms reopened.
For the week of September 18 through September 24, CMS reported 481 new COVID-19 cases among students and staff — 49 cases among staff — with 157 of 180 schools in the district reporting at least one case. The two weeks prior saw the total new cases at 447 and 494.
Similarly, in other districts — Iredell, Gaston, Anson, Stanly, Rowan and Union counties — as of Sept. 27, the percent of school population testing positive dropped slightly, based on weekly reporting by the schools. In Cabarrus County, new data wasn’t available Monday but weekly data from Sept. 21 showed less than 1% of students and staff there testing positive.