Experts weigh-in on high Covid numbers reported by school districts

"It's really the extracurricular activities"
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Posted at 4:45 PM, Apr 14, 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Covid cases reported by some area school district are on the rise.

The Orchard Park Central School District reported ten new cases at six Orchard Park Schools.

In the Frontier Central School District there are 13 positive Covid cases at five Frontier Schools.

The Buffalo Public School District reporting many new cases this week.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to a physician at Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo about the causes.

Dr. Stephen Turkovich, Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, in a Zoom interview.

“If you think about the dramatic increases that occurred over the last two weeks when schools have actually been closed,” explained Dr. Stephen Turkovich.

Turkovich serves as chief medical officer at Children’s.

There is a rise in the number of Covid cases among younger people in the Western New York region.

“Right now, we've got a couple of teenagers in the hospital. Two in the ICU, but they're doing fine and not needing any ventilators or anything like that,” remarked Dr. Stephen Turkovich.

Dr. Turkovich says hospitalization rates for children with Covid remain low, but he has seen all ages, from newborns to teens come in with the virus.

But the pediatrician explained that when children are admitted with Covid they seem to have a quick turn around, even if they needed oxygen, he said they don’t get as sick as some adults.

Dr. Turkovich said he does not believe the overall spike in cases reported by school districts was caused by spring break.

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School lockers.

“We’re seeing that kids are contracting not necessarily in school — it's really the extracurricular activities, most significantly sports,” responded Dr. Turkovich. “Things like hockey, football volley ball and cheer leading — are the big culprits now in terms of transmission and it's really because there's significant contract between the individuals and they're indoors, so that's what's really been driving the quote unquote student cases — it's not necessarily transmission within schools.”

Dr. Stephen Turkovich in a Zoom interview.

“Should there be a halt in the youth sports?”, Buckley asked.

“There are things we can do to decrease risks and if you're wearing masks and you're social distancing and everything around the game — if you're not feeling well or if you've been exposed to somebody with Covid — not attending and quarantining like you should,” replied Dr. Turkovich.

Still Erie County leaders reported the second highest rates of districts reporting Covid cases this week, with 87-new student cases Tuesday.

But the community argument continues with county leaders, who once again, are on the defensive about school transmission rates.

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Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive, appearing Tuesday in a Covid update.

“We have seen transmission in schools — doesn't mean there's hundreds of cases, but for those who are like there's no transmission in schools — that's false,” declared Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.

Poloncarz and Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein were asked about those transmission numbers once again during their Covid briefing Tuesday.

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Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein explaining increase in school district cases.

“The numbers continues to stay high,” said Dr. Burstein. “If they are infected with Covid 19 and they don't have symptoms — they are in that classroom and potentially transmitting the infection to other students.”

There were a total of 421 school cases reported to the county health department this week, down from last week's highest numbers of 504.

Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine said he expects to see a rise in cases for the next couple of weeks.

Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine, in Zoom interview.

“We’re going to see the impact of spring break. People have been traveling which increases risk. People have been going to various parts of the country and likely involved with venues where you're more likely to get infected,” Dr. Russo explained.

In the Lewiston-Porter Central School District, the superintendent says two more new cases were reported this week.

Lewiston-Porter Central School District Superintendent Paul Casseri in a Zoom interview.

“Over spring break we had about 12 Covid positives with our students — one staff member and I anticipate, now that people are back from spring break, that it's going to be much higher,” noted Paul Casseri, superintendent.

You can track cases of Covid reported by schools and school districts in public, private, Catholic and charter schools on the states School Report Card.

Dr. Turkovich says with the new variants, we must all remain vigilant in stopping the spread of the virus.

“So we have a little bit more work today, but I personally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Turkovich stated.

The best advice the doctor offers to school families — keep wearing a mask. He says it is the number one proven thing to do to decrease the spread.