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CLEVELAND (WJW) – School districts are having a hard time battling COVID-19,  the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has the highest number of new cases in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

COVID was one of several reasons behind the closure of 14 schools Friday.

A district spokesperson said other staff illness as well as difficulty finding substitutes also played a role.

CMSD reports 233 new student cases and 130 new staff cases of the virus as of Wednesday.

Data from the Ohio Department of health shows a lower number of new cases for the district, however the department’s reporting period ended earlier in the week.

An ODH spokesperson said the district still ranks first in the state for new COVID cases.

It’s a frustrating reality for some staff who voiced concern about the issue. This includes one staff member who requested to remain anonymous but shared she tested positive for the virus despite being vaccinated with a booster shot.

“I know how many cases we have in our building. I know what happened yesterday, 21 staff members were out… kids were getting shuffled to room after room,” she said. “The message was teachers have called in sick, not teachers are sick. It’s just all about perception. It’s not acknowledging the reality that Cleveland has a ton of COVID positive tests.”

The new highly transmissible omicron variant is being found more often in lab tests in Cleveland, leading to an increase in cases across the area.

Cuyahoga County reports the highest number of COVID cases in the state.

Tom Ott, the Interim Deputy Chief of Communications for CMSD released the following statement about the school closures:

“The District today begins a two-week winter break that we hope will bring much-needed physical and mental relief to students, families and staff. We will continue to work with the Cleveland Department of Public Health, monitor public health conditions, adhere to our strict COVID protocols and determine an appropriate course of action going forward.”

The district was among the first to mandate masks at the start of the school year. Ott said 75% of staff members are vaccinated using the Moderna COVID vaccine.

He stated mandatory vaccinations and weekly testing cannot be implemented due to a state law prohibiting the district from treating unvaccinated employees differently that those who are vaccinated.

Ott said if they were to move forward with testing, they would have to test everyone regardless of vaccinations status, a change they do not have the capacity to facilitate.

According to Ott, students and staff who are symptomatic must quarantine for 10 days after showing symptoms. Those who are asymptomatic can quarantine for 10 days from the day of their test result.

“COVID is a community-wide problem that we must all work together to solve,” said Ott in a written statement. “We encourage everyone to wear face masks, practice social distancing, get tested if necessary and, if they choose, take advantage of opportunities to be vaccinated.”