School quarantines, cases spike during first week with masks optional

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, November 3, 2021

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After more than a month of declining COVID-19 metrics, Stanly County Schools reported an uptick in quarantines and positive cases for last week, according to updated data from the district’s COVID-19 online dashboard.

The district recorded 305 quarantines among students and staff for the week of Oct. 24-30, almost double the 154 quarantines that were reported the week prior. The total accounts for about three percent of the estimated 9,400 students and staff across the district.

Almost every school saw its quarantine numbers increase compared to the week of Oct. 17-23, with four schools having totals exceeding 20 for the first time in weeks. Badin Elementary led all schools with 54 students and staff quarantined, up from nine people out the week prior. West Stanly Middle had 41 people in quarantine, up from 11, while West Stanly High had 27 people quarantined, up from six the week before.

Only three schools — Millingport Elementary, South Stanly High and Stanly STEM Early College — saw slight decreases in quarantines.

Twenty-eight people were identified as positive for COVID-19 last week, including 21 students, a notable increase from the 16 people who had been positive the week prior. Even with the uptick, the total is still less than the 32 people who were positive for the week of Oct. 10-16.

Badin Elementary had nine people who were identified as positive for the coronavirus — four students and five staff — the highest total of any school in the district. No other school had more than three positives last week.

The spike in quarantines and cases is possibly a result of masks now being optional, which took effect the beginning of last week after the school board approved the decision during a special called meeting on Oct. 21. Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis told board members that increased quarantines would likely be the result of switching to a masks optional policy.

The board made the decision to revert to masks optional because overall cases within the county have been decreasing over the past month and Stanly’s 14-day rolling average positivity rate finally dipped below 7.9 percent, which was the threshold agreed upon during the board’s meeting in August.

Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins said last week that he and his department were already prepared for the possibility that school quarantines and positive cases would increase with masks now optional, especially with large groups gathering for the holidays.

Even without the layer of protection that masks provide, many young kids will soon have the chance to get vaccinated, now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved of Pfizer’s vaccine.

Jenkins said his department is expecting to receive 300 Pfizer doses this week. Now that the CDC has approved of the dose for children, the department will begin administering doses next week.

“Without masks, that age group has no means of protecting themselves from Covid,” Jenkins said. “Once we can get some of those children vaccinated that want to be vaccinated, they will have that protection in place where they likely will not get seriously ill.”

Younger children will receive one-third of the dose authorized for those 12 and older, delivered with smaller needles and stored in smaller vials to avoid mix-ups with adult doses. They will return three weeks later for their second shot.

To date, nearly 2 million children ages 5 to 11 in the United States are known to have been infected with the virus, and 8,300 have been hospitalized, according to the New York Times.

In addition to the health department, parents can visit to find additional vaccine providers in the area for their child.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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