As cases of COVID-19 in the New London County region continue to climb, a local health district is warning school leaders of the uptick.
The director of health for Ledge Light Health District, which covers East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Lyme, New London, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Stonington, and Waterford, sent a letter to the district's superintendents outlining the uptick and explaining how a return to full in-person learning would impact the health district's work.
"In recent days, I have been contacted by many school systems who are considering reverting to a full in-person learning model in the coming weeks," Stephen Mansfield, Director of Health, wrote in the letter. "As you are aware from our recent data releases, the number of COVID infections throughout LLHD has increased dramatically in recent weeks."
According to data from LLHD, there were 60 new COVID-19 cases reported in the district during the week of Sept. 19 to 25. An additional 43 new cases were reported this past weekend. Those numbers compared to a low point of five new cases a week in mid-August.
Since schools within the LLHD have reopened for the fall, 10 students and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven of the students are hybrid and three are remote learners.
"The ability to maintain interventions that help to keep transmission rates low in schools are more difficult to manage when there are more students in the building," Mansfield wrote in the letter to districts.
Mansfield outlined the benefits the hybrid model and cohorting have had in relation to contact tracing: "For example, during one contact tracing episode, we were able to allow a school system to remain open, because only one cohort had been exposed to the infected individual."
Cases in the Ledge Light Health District vary town by town. While some more populated towns are experiencing higher case numbers, other municipalities are still experiencing low COVID case numbers.
"We recognize that some school jurisdictions and municipalities are experiencing very low cases of COVID infection, and that they may choose to continue or move to a full in-person learning model," Mansfield wrote. "While you consider the above-mentioned factors, and your ability to provide a COVID safe environment, we encourage you to reach out directly for assistance."
Superintendent of New London Public Schools, Cynthia Ritchie, said that the NLPS reopening plan has outlined that the school system will stay in the hybrid learning model through Oct. 30.
"With that said, we continue to work closely with LLHD to review data and discuss trends. Health and safety continues to be a priority. We will be discussing our next steps throughout the month of October and will follow the guidance of the health experts," Ritchie wrote in an email to NBC Connecticut.