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Positivity rate thresholds for schools differ by state

Posted at 6:26 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 19:26:30-04

OMAHA, NE (KMTV) — A month into school, and districts across the Omaha metro are still divided on their approach on how to safely educate children during the pandemic.

We don't know where the positivity rate threshold sits for every district. Even the experts have different recommendations.

The Douglas County COVID-19 dashboard shows last week, we were sitting at 7.4% positive testing rate.

“If you control it in the community, you’re going to be able to control it much better in a school,” Dr. Tom Frieden, CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former CDC Director, said.

Dr. Frieden said we all want our kids back in schools, but we have to work together.

“The school is not a bubble,” he said. “If you’ve got widespread transmission in the community, its going to be extraordinarily difficult not to open a school but to keep it open.”

Iowa’s positivity rate threshold of 15% is one of the highest in the country. The CDC recommends 5%. New York has said kids can’t go back to school until the positivity rate is under 3%, Arizona has set its bar at 7%, and even the Surgeon General has said schools nationwide shouldn’t consider it unless the positivity rate is under 10% to prove the number of cases is shrinking ​

“If your positivity rate is 10 percent or more it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be able to open schools and keep them open,” Dr. Frieden said. “If its between 5-10% and increasing, it’s also unlikely. If it’s under 5% then if you adapt you may be able to open schools and keep them open.”

But he said we're all going to have to work together to get there by staying apart, wearing masks, and strategic testing with complete contact tracing.