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Hammond, Indiana Watches COVID-19 Cases As Schools Open In Three Weeks

HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) --   Illinois' COVID-19 positivity rate right now it sits at 3.1%.

That's low compared to many other states like Indiana, where the positivity rate is 9%. CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot spoke to one Indiana superintendent who's keeping a very close eye on that number.

Because that number has been increasing and so has concern, since schools open in Indiana in just three weeks.

Lake County has a positivity rate at 12%. Hammond has 19 schools, with 13,000 students. Superintendent Scott Miller was among the Lake County School Superintendents that signed a letter on July 13.

It said all Lake County schools will be starting the school year in the traditional manner with students in classrooms. Miller said the letter was written when COVID-19 cases were rising, but not as high as they are now.

"If the spread rate were to continue, I'll only speak for my own school system, but we would look at a full-time e-learning situation if they remain above 10% like they are right now," Miller said.

Miller said he will make that recommendation at the school board meeting on August 4 if the COVID-19 cases remain above 10%. He said right now, surveys show about half of the districts parents want their children to return to traditional in-school learning, and half want their children to remain at home.

"If it's full school learning, we're not mandating that for all families. We will still have a full-time e-learning option for all families. That's always been the case," Miller said.

The re-entry plan has three phases: Green is traditional five days a week along with e-learning option. Yellow is a hybrid approach, rotating students on different days of the week for in-school learning to reduce the number of students in the building. Red would be full-time e-learning district-wide.

For those coming back to school, masks provided for each student will be mandatory. Dr. Chandana Vavilala is the Lake County Indiana Health Officer and has weekly meetings with school officials. Vavilala said right now, 20-29 year olds are the ones with the highest positive tests. Mandatory mask wearing is the key to seeing that number drop.

"We are trying to reduce the community transmission of the COVID so we can reopen the schools more comfortably and safely," Vavilala said.


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