COVID-19 cases stable in schools as state lawmakers deny need for COVID-19 vaccine for Louisiana students – Community News
Covid-19

COVID-19 cases stable in schools as state lawmakers deny need for COVID-19 vaccine for Louisiana students

The NOLA Public Schools district is tracking 22 “active” cases of COVID-19 related to district staff and students and 94 people are in quarantine after being exposed to a known positive case, according to the district’s weekly report released Monday afternoon.

That’s slightly higher than the 19 cases reported last week and 199 people quarantined — although district officials warned those numbers likely didn’t fully represent the cases, as the report followed the Thanksgiving holiday, when most schools had a week. were closed.

The administration of Governor John Bel Edwards, meanwhile, is in the process of adding COVID vaccinations to the state’s schedule of required vaccines for Louisiana K-12 students. Parents can waive the mandate simply by stating that they are philosophically against the vaccine, but the move has caused a stir among the Republican-led legislature. On Monday, a state house committee met to discuss the proposal and voted to reject it. However, Edwards can ignore the vote and move on.

Prior to the holiday season, cases in city schools hovered around 50 and more than 400 people were in quarantine. The state saw a spike in business during last year’s holiday season as people traveled and gathered with friends and family. Travel and gatherings were expected to be less likely to spread the virus this year with the introduction of vaccines, although a new variant has raised some concerns, prompting travel bans in Europe and some event cancellations at the end of the year.

The ommicron variant of COVID-19 was confirmed in the greater New Orleans area, state health officials announced Friday evening. A second likely case was found in a Norwegian Cruise Lines employee, among a total of 17 known cases, who unloaded thousands of passengers in the city on Sunday. The crew member did not leave the ship, and passengers with confirmed cases have been quarantined, according to a city press release.

The city has seen a slight increase in the average number of new cases at 22 per day and the test positivity rate plunged back below one percent after surpassing that figure in late November for the first time since early October, according to city data. Testing dropped significantly over the Thanksgiving holiday, but has nearly returned to pre-holiday levels.

“We now know that Omicron is here in Louisiana. This is cause for concern, but don’t panic,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter in a statement Friday. “We expected and prepared for this moment. For all Louisiana residents, the best action you can take to protect yourself and your families is to vaccinate and promote yourself and your loved ones if you qualify.”

The NOLA Public Schools district does not currently have any vaccination events scheduled but does have information about health organizations offering vaccinations and the district continues to offer COVID-19 testing, district spokesman Taslin Alfonzo wrote in an email Friday afternoon.

“The health and safety of our students remain our top priorities. Therefore, as the pandemic continues to evolve, NOLA Public Schools will continue to work with our health and government leaders and update its guidelines as recommended by health officials. Currently, our guidelines are in line with the CDC’s recommendations,” Alfonzo wrote.

“Our health partners are reviewing the data, discussing it and will make their recommendations as the virus develops,” she wrote in response to questions about the ommicron variant.

“We strongly encourage parents to have their children 5 years and older vaccinated, get them tested regularly, and stay abreast of the CDC’s recommendations,” she wrote.

Required Vaccinations for Students

Whether the COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for schoolchildren was up for debate in Baton Rouge on Monday.

The House Committee on Health and Welfare held an hour-long hearing on the Louisiana Department of Health’s recommendation to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the state’s “immunization schedule” for school-age children and daycare centers, before finally being released. voted 13 to 2 to reject the addition to the list. list.

The state requires several vaccines, including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and tetanus. Parents can waive the requirement not only for religious or medical reasons, but also for philosophical reasons, a broad exception compared to other states.

Republican lawmakers questioned both the vaccine’s safety and the department’s recommendation, and dozens of members of the public spoke out against adding the injection to the required list.

But unless Governor John Bel Edwards agrees to the vote, the rule could move forward. His spokeswoman Christina Stephens said he plans to move forward with demanding the shot for students.

“As the governor said Friday, he supports adding the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to the immunization schedule and, subject to a recommendation from public health experts, would not change his mind,” Stephens wrote. Also, as LDH testified in today’s hearing, the Department has absolute authority to add this vaccine to the immunization schedule, despite the misinformation presented to the legislature today. This vaccine is safe, effective and easily accessible statewide.”

Stephens also pointed out Louisiana’s broad opt-out options. “None of that will change when this vaccine is added to the immunization schedule.”

She repeated what Kanter said earlier in the day.

“Children have certainly not been spared, and nationwide for the month of September, COVID-19 was the 6th leading cause of death among children aged 5-14 and the 4th leading cause of death among those aged 15-24,” Kanter said at a news conference. Monday hearing. “Vaccinations are the best means we have to fight back.”

In addition to the law allowing the state to require vaccinations, state health officials cited the state law that covers sanitary codes, and referred to a section that allows the department to establish requirements to prevent communicable diseases.

Dozens of public commentators spoke out against adding the photo to the list.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a noted vaccine skeptic often accused of using his platform to spread misinformation, was one of them.

During a presentation to the committee, he called the COVID-19 injection the “deadliest vaccine ever made.” according to attorney reporter Blake Patterson.

Kennedy was invited to testify Monday by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican considered a likely candidate for the 2023 governor’s race. Landry has spent much of the pandemic fighting state efforts .

When asked about Kennedy’s testimony, Kanter turned it down.

“In the midst of a pandemic, I find such misinformation extremely dangerous,” Kanter said.