But what happens outside school may be another matter. A sleepover in Nance County was linked to more than a dozen quarantines and a number of cases.
“The thing is, you can’t control what people do when they go home,” Sepers said.
Lawler said the lack of evidence of transmission in schools may be because officials are only looking for — and testing — kids with symptoms. Anecdotally, he said, local researchers are hearing of cases in which kids aren’t being taken for testing.
The key to keeping kids in school, he said, will be to keep them in masks and at a safe distance apart.
“Everybody wants kids in school,” he said. “Certainly people in public health and medicine understand school, for a variety of reasons, is critical for kids. But you have to find a balance that allows you to do that as much as possible without driving widespread transmission.”
Sepers said four schools in the East Central District, which covers Platte, Colfax, Nance and Boone Counties, started the school year without mask policies in place. As of late September, three of the four had adopted them.
Overall, Sepers said, gatherings and family clusters appear to be contributing to an increase of cases in the district.
A month ago, the district was averaging five cases a day. A week ago, it was up to 16.5 cases a day on a seven-day rolling average. On Sept. 25, the district had 167 active cases, the highest number since May. Other rural areas are seeing similar patterns, Sepers said.