WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — We are not making the grade when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. COVID-19 cases are increasing across metro Detroit, forcing schools offering in-person learning to make tough decisions.
The state has been posting grades on an A through E scale for counties aimed at helping schools and businesses assess where we stand when it comes to the spread of COVID-19. When in one week Oakland County was downgraded from a C to an E, some school districts decided they needed to take action.
West Bloomfield Schools, which had been offering hybrid face to face learning for K through 8 students, is returning to all virtual learning for now.
“What we are seeing is growing numbers of students and staff in quarantine, numbers of positive cases, so we had to make that decision based on the data we had,” said Deanna Barash, assistant superintendent at West Bloomfield Schools.
Barash says the spread of the virus is not just a public health concern, but leads to staffing concerns.
“We are going to run out of staff to teach those kids, because we don’t have subs to put in classrooms as well. It is just a tough situation all the way around,” Barash said.
“Of all the hundreds of teachers and students we have quarantined, virtually all of them have acquired their infection outside of schools and frankly in the students it has been primarily through sports activities,” said Dr. Russell Faust, the Medical Director of the Oakland County Health Department.
He says schools in Oakland County that are open have done a great job preventing the spread of the virus. He says outbreaks in schools have been relatively small and rare. The downgrade from a C to an E grade means there is more community spread outside schools. The state advises schools in communities with such a grade to quote, “ consider remote instruction in the entire district.”
“We have the power to issue a health order to close a school and we would certainly consider that if we were seeing transmission in schools, and we are just not,” Dr. Faust said.
West Bloomfield is not the only district making the decision to return to virtual learning for a period of time. Waterford Schools and Huron Valley Schools also decided after the grade change to transition to virtual learning for a period of time.
Oakland County is not the only county seeing a significant spread of the virus.
Right now the state gave the City of Detroit a D grade, which means it is seeing between 70 and 150 cases per million and a 15 to 20 percent positivity rate. The city has its own health department. Other communities are covered by county health departments. The state gave all counties in metro-Detroit an E grade, which means they are seeing 150 or greater cases per million with a 20 or greater percent positivity rate.