Caldwell County School District Interim Superintendent Heath Cartwright canceled all district sports events for Thursday and Friday, due to the county being listed in the red level for its COVID-19 incidence rate.
He decided Thursday to allow continued in-school instruction for those students who chose that option before the school year began. School sports also resumed today.
State COVID guidelines recommend that schools in a county listed at the red level cancel all in-school instruction for at least a week and until the county is listed at the yellow level, the third-highest of the four-color incidence rating code used by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (KCHFS).
The code lists counties as red (more than 25 cases per 100,000 people over seven days), orange (10 to 25 cases per 100,000), yellow (1 to 10 cases per 100,000) and green (less than 1 case per 100,000).
Caldwell County was listed in the red level on Wednesday with 29.1 cases per 100,000 people; it had 16.8 cases per 100,000 on Tuesday.
It is one of four of the five counties covered by the Pennyrile District Health Department to be listed at the red level. On Thursday, the latest report, that rate went up to 31.4. Other counties in the district in the red level include Crittenden (37.3 on Thursday), Lyon (29.6) and Trigg (26.3). Livingston County is listed in the orange level at 14 cases per 100,000 people.
What is making those numbers jump is Caldwell County’s confirmation of 32 new cases of COVID-19 since Sept. 12. Two of those cases were students who were confirmed over the weekend and had not yet been to the classroom. Caldwell County opened in-school instruction Monday.
Those 32 cases account for more than a quarter — 25.2% — of the county’s total case count of 127 since the pandemic began in March.
Cartwright canceled Caldwell County High School’s participation in a Friday football game at Union County on Wednesday because Union County had been listed at the red level.
A football game was worked out for the Tigers to travel to Hopkinsville today (Saturday) for a 7 p.m. game. Christian County was listed in the orange level with 21.7 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday.
Thursday is the weekly decision day for school districts to decide how it will have students receive instruction: in the classroom or at home through online methods.
Cartwright decided to allow those Caldwell County students who opted for in-school instruction through the district’s COVID hybrid plan to continue to learn in the classroom.
Cartwright said that he and the district staff looked at local data and the trend data for the county provided by the Pennyrile District Health Department showing how many new cases it had to see if the county was spiking really high above the incidence rate.
“I looked at the data (Thursday), and I looked at the whole month of September,” he said. “You know, we only have two students that have tested positive for COVID, and those two students have not been in any of our schools yet this year.
“As I get into the data, I can see that this is not an active situation among our student body. There’s not really a significant spike; there’s a little bit of an increase here, but there’s a decrease there.”
Cartwright said that the data told him that the situation did not warrant having all students take instruction at home.
“After looking at the data, I felt like: No. 1, we can definitely stay in school and continue to use our COVID back-to-school protocols to do everything we can to keep everybody safe,” he said.
State COVID guidelines recommend that also recommend that schools in counties at the red level suspend all school-related athletics events and extracurricular activities.
Cartwright said he felt confident that Caldwell County schools could continue their extracurricular activities, including athletics.
“I do feel comfortable…that we can go ahead and resume now,” he said. “Now, that’s all subject to change with new data as it comes in.
“We’re not going to use the colors on the map to make decisions on a day-to-day basis. We’re going to use that as it was intended: as a recommendation. We’re going to look at more than just the color; we’re going to look at the numbers behind the color, and then, we’re going to cross-reference that with information from our local health department, information from our school nurses and just make a holistic decision.”
Cartwright said that extracurricular activities will resume today (Saturday), which includes high school football, girls’ soccer and volleyball and middle school football.
Elisha Kite, the public health director at the Pennyrile District health Department, said she supports the state’s guidelines.
“I support the Kentucky Department of Public Health’s guidelines that state if a school is determined to be a red county at the Thursday weekly decision point, they should halt in-school instruction and school-related sports and extracurricular activities until they become a yellow county at the next Thursday weekly decision point,” she said Thursday in an emailed statement.
The line of counties including Caldwell, Crittenden, Lyon, Trigg and Union counties are the westernmost counties in Kentucky at the red level this week. On Thursday, 13 of the state’s 120 counties were listed at the red level. Four counties — all in the northeastern part of the state — were listed in the green level.