School Board Implements Temporary Mask Mandate

Daniel Prince

COVID update reveals 65 confirmed staff cases and 216 confirmed student cases

At last night’s meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees, the board voted unanimously to implement a mask mandate, effective starting Tuesday, and continuing until the February school board meeting, when the board will look at case numbers and quarantine figures and see if it needs to continue beyond that point or not. The mandate is the same that was put in place for last school year; the only difference is the length of time it is in effect.

The rationale behind the decision is to limit the number of close contact quarantines, as CDC and DHEC guidelines state that anyone within 6 feet of a person testing positive for COVID and are exposed at that distance for longer than 15 minutes is considered a close contact and must quarantine, unless the person is vaccinated or is wearing a mask. The only exception to that is if the vaccinated or masked person is within three feet of the infected person, in which case they are still considered a close contact and must quarantine.

Nurse Kelly Walton presented the latest COVID figures for the district, finalized as of 3 p.m. Thursday. She stated that there have been 65 confirmed staff cases of COVID, 216 confirmed student cases, and 936 students quarantined as close contacts. She said the first semester average is just over 3 staff cases, 29 student cases, and 242 quarantined. The week prior to Christmas, there were 3 staff cases, 5 student cases, and 47 in quarantine. She praised the nursing staff in the schools and all the others who work with them for contact tracing. This week, she said they were down two nurses, so they were extra-busy trying to provide coverage at all the schools.

Athletic Director Scott Sherbert said the district’s athletic directors, coaches, administrators, and other schools have all been working more closely during this time than ever before as they try to keep the student-athletes safe while continuing to operate the athletic programs. COVID has also hit the pool of officials hard, and schools have had to bring in retired officials from time to time to have enough to be able to hold the contest.

Superintendent Joey Haney said that teachers who are healthy are reporting to the schools during e-learning days to do their virtual lessons from there. He noted that there are several teachers who tested positive for COVID but are still working from home to provide education for their students. Haney was asked if sick days are being taken from them, and he said no, if they are stepping up to help out in that way, he was working with them to ensure they weren’t being penalized.

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