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Sunday, December 3, 2023
Dec. 3, 2023

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COVID keeps rising in Clark County schools

Contact tracing becomes increasingly difficult during surge

By , Columbian staff writer

Reported COVID-19 cases in Clark County schools are continuing to rise dramatically, following last week’s trend.

Schools on Wednesday reported an estimated 1,678 new cases among students and staff — up from the 1,120 recorded last week.

Health officials have warned that the rise of at-home tests and difficulties providing in-office tests means that case numbers are likely underreporting the true number of COVID-19 infections.

Though the vast majority of these cases are still determined to be from out-of-school transmission, there’s been a noticeable rise of in-school transmissions in the districts that record them.

Districts have also been notifying parents and communities in the last week of the challenges of contact tracing and data acquisition as cases rise.

The following data can be found for each school district on the Clark County Public Health website and is typically updated by each district weekly.

Evergreen Public Schools reported 622 positive cases among students and staff between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16. In the week prior, it recorded just 246 new cases. District spokesperson Gail Spolar said contact tracing is becoming increasingly difficult amid the current surge.

Vancouver Public Schools reported 226 positive cases between Jan. 12 and Jan. 18 — 49 of which are among staff members. Its dashboard also reported 16 in-school transmissions in that time period, a noticeable increase from the zero reported the week before.

Battle Ground Public Schools reported 593 total cases — a combination of totals from the two weeks following the return from winter break. District spokesperson Rita Sanders specified that the district recorded 201 cases between Jan. 3 and Jan. 7 and 392 cases between Jan. 8 and Jan. 14. Battle Ground’s delay in reporting cases was attributed to staffing shortages and struggles with contact tracing.

The Camas School District reported 312 new cases among students and staff, an increase from 294 cases in the previous week.

The Ridgefield School District reported 52 new cases between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17 — nine of which were identified as in-school transmissions. In the week prior, none of the district’s 44 new cases were identified as such.

The Hockinson School District reported 34 new cases as of Jan. 17. The district dashboard also notes that 21 students and staff have been quarantined as potentially close contacts and that 27 students have been reported out sick with COVID-19 symptoms.

The Washougal School District has reported 31 new cases between Jan. 13 and Jan. 18, a decrease from 57 new cases in the previous week.

The La Center School District reported 89 new cases between Jan. 7 and Jan. 14, an increase from the 63 total cases recorded in the previous week.

School districts are reporting that they are continuing to follow guidance from Clark County Public Health and the Washington Department of Health — both of which have not provided additional guidelines to health and safety protocols in schools outside of the CDC’s updated isolation timeline.

Now in the second week of its rotating remote learning schedule, Vancouver Public Schools hasn’t seen a decrease in case numbers despite fewer students in attendance throughout the district.

District spokesperson Patricia Nuzzo said Wednesday that while the number of available bus drivers fluctuates day by day, it has remained steady since the transition to a new schedule.

The Ridgefield School District announced via press release Wednesday that students on three of its bus routes would be given the option to have early release today, to accommodate a driver shortage. Bus routes 301, 307 and 309 will also follow an early release schedule on Friday.

“The omicron variant of COVID has hit the KWRL Transportation cooperative hard, with many staff members calling in sick due to symptoms indicating potential infection,” the district said in its release Wednesday. “Rather than put entire districts on delayed/modified schedules for the remainder of this week, individual bus routes in each district will be modified in order to impact the fewest number of students.”

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