Cuyahoga County Health Board Recommends Schools Begin Remotely & No Sports

While some school districts plan to reopen schools this fall, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health is recommending school districts stick to remote learning for the beginning of the year. [Natalia Lebedinskaia / Shutterstock]
While some school districts plan to reopen schools this fall, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health is recommending school districts stick to virtual learning for the beginning of the year. [Natalia Lebedinskaia / Shutterstock]

Updated: Friday, July 31 at 4:15 p.m. 

Cuyahoga County Board of Health officials said the number of COVID-19 cases have tripled in the county between mid-June and mid-July.

Because of this spike, the health board is recommending all school districts start the year completely online and discontinue extracurricular activities such as sports, band and choir.

The health board’s recommendation is not a mandate for schools at this time. Some school districts my still opt to hold in person classes based on what they feel is appropriate for their individual communities, said Health Commissioner Terry Allan.

“It’s important to recognize that when schools reconvene with in-person classroom or extracurricular activities, we anticipate outbreaks of COVID,” Allan said at a news conference on Friday.

“The goal is to do all we can to reduce risk,” he said.

The recommendations came after assessing multiple factors, such as the county's number of daily cases, evidence of "significant" community spread, the capacity to test children for the coronavirus and reports of clusters of cases coming directly from "play" settings, such as sports, Allan said. 

In addition, activities such as theater and band have the potential to spread the virus through respiratory droplets, officials said. 

Health officials did not give a clear date when the virtual learning period would end. Instead, the board of health will continue to evaluate metrics such as COVID-19 testing positivity rates and the state's public health advisory system before determining when to change the guidance about children returning to in-class learning, officials said. 

On Friday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) reaffirmed its plans to move forward with practices for fall sports, according to a news release. Practices may begin starting tomorrow, August 1, the release said. 

Despite this announcement, Allan said the board stands by its suggestion for schools to discontinue sports for the time being. 

“Those recommendations … are based on data here in our community, and we, at first, are using data to be the most protective we can for our communities, also knowing as we enter the school year, we’ll be heading into the flu season,” he said. 

The board’s recommendations are the most protective for schools in the county, Allan said.

Last week, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced it would hold virtual classes for the first nine weeks of the school year. 

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