School quarantines increase for a second consecutive week, approach 500

Stanly County Schools reported 493 quarantines during the week of Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, 92 percent of which were among students, according to updated data from the district’s COVID-19 online dashboard. This is the second consecutive week cases have increased and the highest weekly total since early October.

The total accounts for roughly five percent of the estimated 9,400 students and staff across the district. It also represents a 62 percent decrease from the 305 quarantines recorded for the week of Oct. 24-30.

The last time there were around 500 or more quarantines was during the week of Oct.3-9, when 560 students and staff were out.

Of the 23 schools across the district, 17 experienced an uptick in quarantines. Badin Elementary had 118 students and staff out of school last week, an increase of 64 from the previous week and the highest total for any individual school in several weeks. Other schools that accounted for significant numbers included Norwood Elementary with 50, West Stanly Middle with 39, South Stanly High with 33 and North Stanly High with 30.

Overall, eight schools recorded 20 or more quarantines, double the number from the week prior.

Only four schools — Albemarle Middle, Stanfield Elementary, West Stanly High and West Stanly Middle — saw slight decreases in quarantines while two others stayed the same.

Though quarantines went up, positive cases have declined. Twenty-five people were identified as positive for COVID-19 last week, including 20 students, a modest decrease from the 28 people who had been positive the week prior.

Badin Elementary had eight people who were identified as positive for the coronavirus — six students and two staff — the highest total of any school in the district for the second consecutive week. No other school had more than four positives for the week.

The state Department of Health and Human Services this week identified five schools as the sites of ongoing COVID-19 clusters, defined as five or more related cases at a facility within a 14-day period: Badin Elementary, West Stanly Middle, West Stanly High, North Stanly High and Richfield Elementary.

Whereas SCS posts data from the previous week, the state’s data represents the cumulative number of cases during the cluster and do not necessarily represent active cases, according to Doshia F. Swaringen, human services program specialist with the health department. The state’s data only shows positive lab results as part of ongoing clusters, she added, not lab results independent of such clusters.

The continued spike in quarantines likely stems from masks being optional within schools, a decision which took effect two weeks ago 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.

This is because whenever a student was determined to be positive, no other students in a class had to quarantine, so long as everyone was properly masked, according to state guidelines. Now, if someone is positive, quarantine is required for all individuals who have been in close contact (within six feet for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period) with the infected.

For the week of Oct. 17-23, the last week masks were still required, the district reported 154 people quarantined, the lowest total of the school year.

The increases may also be a result of continued community transmission throughout the county. Though new cases have decreased over the past month, only 41 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.