The 2021-2022 school year is more than a month old, and the good news so far is that most districts have been able to avoid shutting down schools due to COVID outbreaks.
Both the Saucon Valley and Southern Lehigh school boards approved requirements for masking-wearing, albeit under different plans, before Gov. Tom Wolf announced a mask mandate for all Pennsylvania students beginning Sept. 7.
In spite of mask-wearing and other COVID safety protocols that are in place, there had been some confirmed cases of COVID in all of the schools in both districts, as of Oct. 6.
Each district maintains its own COVID-19 dashboard on its website, which features updates about the number of confirmed cases as well as other information.
Saucon Valley’s dashboard lists the number of nurse visits, the number of students sent home, the number of COVID close contacts and the number of confirmed cases per week, with a second column in each chart listing the numbers for each category from last year.
According to the numbers shared by the district, as of Oct. 6 there had been 10 confirmed COVID cases at Saucon Valley Elementary School, including three among staff members; six confirmed cases at the middle school, with no staff members testing positive so far; and eight confirmed cases at the high school, including three faculty/staff cases. There have also been two multi-building cases, for a total case count of 26 to date.
The Saucon Valley School District’s COVID dashboard is updated on a weekly basis. The district’s 2021-2022 health and safety plan may also be viewed online. A public forum for candidates seeking election to the Saucon Valley School Board will be held at the high school Oct. 11, and the subject of the district’s COVID response is likely to be addressed.
Southern Lehigh’s COVID dashboard lists both an aggregate COVID case count by building and month. According to the dashboard in August there was one confirmed case at Libery Bell Elementary, one confirmed case at Hopewell Elementary, one confirmed case at Joseph P. Liberati Intermediate School, two confirmed cases at Southern Lehigh High School and one confirmed case on transportation. In September, there were 25 confirmed cases at Liberty Bell, four confirmed cases at Hopewell, seven cases at Southern Lehigh Middle School and four cases at Southern Lehigh High School. So far in October, there has been just one confirmed case–at Hopewell–per the dashboard.
The total number of all the cases in all the schools so far, as of Wednesday, was 60.
According to the district’s 14-day rolling case count, over the past two weeks there one case each at Liberty Bell, Hopewell, the middle school and the intermediate school, and two cases at the high school.
The Southern Lehigh statistics do not differentiate between student and staff cases.
The Saucon Valley School District has an enrollment of approximately 2,100 students, while Southern Lehigh has a current enrollment of about 3,200 students, according to statistics published by U.S. News & World Report.
For more information about COVID case counts in Pennsylvania and locally, visit the PA Department of Health’s dashboard as well as CovidActNow.org, which assesses each county’s current risk level based on data including case numbers and infection rates.
For information about the current rates of vaccination in Pennsylvania, see the state’s vaccination dashboard. As of Wednesday, Oct. 6, the state Department of Health reported that 63 percent of state residents (excluding Philadelphia county) had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, with 57.3 percent of Pennsylvanians fully vaccinated against the disease.
The state’s vaccination rates vary considerably according to age group and other factors, including age and geography. For example, 43.2 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 6, in contrast with 82.8 percent of individuals aged 70 to 74 who were fully vaccinated. In Lehigh County as of Wednesday, 69.2 percent of residents were fully vaccniated, while in adjacent Northampton County that number was 64 percent. In Fulton County, in south central Pennsylvania, just 27.9 percent of residents had been fully vaccinated.