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Shift in Sedgwick County COVID-19 reporting spurs further fall-sports discussion

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 5:47 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A COVID-19 advisory committee put together met Monday to further discuss the fast-approaching school year for the Wichita school district. Part of the discussion of the group, put together by Wichita Public Schools Superintendent Alicia Thompson, was whether school sports and activities can happen in the district this fall.

On, Aug. 20 the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education made a decision for middle school and high school students to start the school year online, and for no in-person athletics or activities for the first nine weeks of school.

Doctors, nurses, school representatives and parents are among those representing the COVID-19 advisory board for the Wichita school district. Monday, Eyewitness News spoke with a pair of advisory board members who said COVID-19 numbers are heading in the right direction in Sedgwick County, but they’re not sure if it’s enough to have fall sports and activities in the district.

Sparking some optimism is a shift in the way the county reports coronavirus numbers as children head back to school.

Sedgwick County Health Department Director Adrienne Byrne said the county is now offering a “community only” percentage to help schools gauge where they should be in their gating criteria. The new number would not include isolated clusters like nursing homes and the Sedgwick County jail.

Byrne said the goal is to focus on the true “community spread” of the disease. Those numbers are stabilizing overall and going down. With that, comes a more positive view of the gaiting criteria Wichita Public Schools uses to assess what sports or activities are safe.

Serving on the district’s COVID-19 advisory committee, Byren said one of her primary jobs is going to be taking data. That data shows that the percentage of positive cases has fallen under 10 percent in Sedgwick County. Byrne said looking at the data without clusters in isolated areas like the jail or nursing homes brings the positive percentage down even farther.

“Well, it’s much smaller than what the community diseased is, smaller than what the overall number is becuse we have a lot of clusters in long-term care facilities,” Byrne said. “So that enables them to decide if they really want to use that number or be more cautious and use the whole community.”

Wichita Public Schools Athletic Director J. Means, also serving on the advisory committee, said he’s advocating for sports to be played in 2020, but he just wants everyone to be safe.

“The numbers are going down, but just realistically, I think the committee’s asked to look at the guidelines that the board set down and if there’s any way that we can match up and have something with athletics.”

He said while the committee will make recommendations, it’s up to the Wichita school board to decide what happens this year.

“What makes it so hard is, one day you have this information and the percentage goes up, or the percentage goes down the next day, (and) trying to balance all that and be ready to go in whatever direction the board gives us,” Means said.

The Wichita school board (Wichita Public Schools Board of Education) will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Wichita North High School to discuss what the COVID-19 advisory committee recommends. A group of student-athletes, parents and coaches will be at Wichita North prior to that meeting to voice their opinions.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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