A Kansas elementary school has been closed for three days this week after being hit by a spate of respiratory illness among students and staff.
Christ the King Catholic School, a K-8 school with 250 students and 21 teachers in Kansas City, Kansas, closed Wednesday after more than 50 children and seven staff members were sick.
Officials plan to disinfect the building during the holidays. It will open again on Monday.
It comes amid a nationwide spate of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that has hit young children the hardest.
Children’s hospitals in the US report being at or near capacity as the increase in cases overwhelms emergency departments.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 7,945 new RSV infections in the week ending Nov. 5.
This is a huge upward shift from the fewer than 2,000 cases reported in early September.
Across the country, just over 1,300 cases of flu were also reported that week — an increase from just a few hundred in August and the highest figure this flu season so far.
Due to the wave action, dozens of schools across the country have been temporarily closed due to staffing problems or to prevent further spread of the virus.
Experts had warned this year’s flu season would be more severe than in years past, after lockdowns amid the pandemic ill-prepared many people’s immune systems.
These flu shutdowns also reflect the devastating school policies put in place during the early months of the pandemic.
The number of confirmed flu cases reached 13,806 in the week ending November 5, a new high for this season and strong growth from previous weeks
The number of confirmed RSV cases reached 12,905 in the week ending October 29, while the positive test rate reached 18.8 percent in the week ending November 5.
The CDC reports that 21 states have ‘high’ or ‘very high’ flu activity, and six suffer from moderate activity
“With the high number of positive Influenza A and RSV cases among our faculty, staff and students, we will also disinfect the building,” the school wrote on its Facebook page.
School officials told the local news outlet KMBC they closed the school pending the further spread of the disease.
Cathy Fithian, the school’s principal, also said staff shortages played a role in the decision.
“If you can’t staff your building and have teachers in the classroom, you just can’t have a school,” she said.
This is not the first school to close due to the rising number of flu cases.
Brighton School in Baton Rouge, LA – a special school for dyslexic students – will be closed on October 25 due to the rising number of respiratory illnesses.
Aquadale Elementary School and South Stanly Middle School, both located just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, closed on October 25 and 26.
In Decatur, Alabama, near the state’s northern border, Austinville Elementary School will be closed for a week from October 25 to October 31.
Alabama’s entire school district of 5,000 students switches to distance learning during a flu outbreak – following devastating pandemic policy
Thirteen schools in Alabama switched to distance learning this week amid a rising flu outbreak, with virus hospitalizations in the state three times higher than normal.
In a move reminiscent of Covid lockdowns, the Marshall County school district said it was suspending personal education for four days.
The closures will “reduce the spread of the virus,” the school said, which said it cannot remain open due to increasing teacher absences.
Last week, CDC data revealed America is facing its worst flu crisis in a decade, with 17 states already registering “high” or “very high” levels of the disease.
The move will force more than 5,000 primary and secondary school students to complete their classes at home rather than in the classroom.
Students must log into the school system from home to access their teaching materials. Some parents have already expressed their concerns, suggesting that their child does not have access to a computer at home.
It comes despite mounting evidence that closing schools during Covid has deprived children of education and increased inequality.
Research shows that, on average, US students lagged about six months in math alone, while those in the poorest areas were now two and a half years behind.
Lynchburg-Clay elementary, middle, and high schools, in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, all either closed or began virtual learning on Nov. 4 amid a respiratory illness outbreak.
All eight schools in Union County, Kentucky, were closed on Nov. 7 due to a flu outbreak.
Also in Marshall County, Alabama, thirteen schools will be closed for four days this week.
It is feared that these kinds of school closures could put children behind, after prolonged virtual learning during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic led to social development problems in American children.
Studies also show that many fell behind in key disciplines such as math and reading.
Health officials have long warned that this year’s flu season would be more brutal than years past.
Common viruses like the flu have largely disappeared during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, as masking and social distancing prevent the spread.
This year, however, they are roaring back, as many do not have the necessary immune protection to fight the virus.
Some have even warned of a ‘triplemic’ as flu, RSV and COVID-19 usually peak at the end of the year.
Confirmed RSV cases hit a new peak in the week ending Oct. 29, with the CDC reporting 12,905 infections.
Although the weekly numbers have since fallen, a stabilization in test positivity indicates that the actual number of cases is still rising.
Test positivity is considered a more accurate measure of an outbreak because it explains fluctuations in the number of tests performed.
The positivity rate of 18.8 percent during the week ending Nov. 5 is the highest this season so far — slightly better than the previous week’s 18.7 percent.
The virus poses a major threat to young children. The CDC reports that up to 500 children in America die from RSV each year.
In young children, an infection can often cause pneumonia or inflammation of the airways in the lungs. These are potentially deadly symptoms.
For the first time since Covid also struck, the flu is on the rise across America, with the US south being hit hardest.
According to the CDC, a cluster of southern states is ravaged by the flu.
Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia all report the highest levels of flu activity, according to the CDC.
Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico and Texas report ‘very high’.
The US is currently registering 40,835 new infections every day, a nine percent increase in the past two weeks.
America also suffers 326 deaths daily from the virus, a nine percent drop in 14 days.