(BIVN) – Hawaiʻi health officials on Monday released updated COVID-19 guidance for schools that could inform future decisions on instituting in-person, blended, or distance learning models.
Last month, the Hawai‘i Department of Health issued a comprehensive, 28-page guidance document for public and charter schools “to ensure the education of youth statewide during the pandemic continues with the least disruption possible and without putting students, teachers and staff at increased risk for COVID-19.”
A short time later, the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association objected to the guidance, saying that it did not follow metrics cited by the federal Centers for Disease Control.
The health department eventually withdrew their guidance and went back to the drawing board.
Under the new guidance released Monday, schools on Hawaiʻi island would remain in “blended learning” mode, given the current COVID-19 case rate on the Big Island (per 100,000 population).
In its guidance, the DOH notes that the testing positivity rate “is defined as the percentage of all tests reported that are positive. Tracking percent positivity along with the number of new cases is important in understanding how the virus is spreading in the community.” Also, test percent positivity for Lanai and Molokai are based on all testing performed in Maui County.
From the Hawaiʻi Department of Health today:
The Hawai‘i Department of Health released updated guidance to elementary, middle and high schools today to help school administrators make decisions to safely transition between different models of learning — virtual classes, traditional classroom learning, or a combination of at-home learning and in-person learning. The guidance is available on the Department of Health’s website.
“The core considerations for schools, the measures schools must take to prevent spread of disease, have not changed and remain the most important part of any school’s preparations to open for in-person learning and their response to COVID-19,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist. “Our guidance on what learning model area complexes should adopt is still based on disease transmission rates and the ability of schools to respond to COVID-19.”
Updated reopening thresholds for schools now align with reopening plans for Honolulu and Kaua‘i that were approved by Gov. David Ige and apply recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a way that fits our experience with COVID-19 in Hawai‘i.
The new reopening thresholds are based on two consecutive seven-day averages of daily new case rates and testing percent positivity by island, a shift from the prior thresholds which were based on a single cumulative 14-day average. By using the seven-day daily average per 100,000 population, the measures can be compared more easily with trend charts of case rates by county and island that are updated daily on our website and can be tracked alongside weekly county reopening measures.
“The ability to track the measures in real-time allows schools to look ahead and plan more actively for learning model changes, but the idea is to base an actual change in learning model on at least two weeks of data,” Kemble said. The percent of tests that are positive by county has been added as a secondary measure.
The learning model thresholds derived from the preceding two 7-day cycles are posted on the Department of Health’s website each Wednesday at noon.