10 days vs. 7 days

Students must mask up after 7-day quarantine

By ELIOT DUKE
Of the Record staff
Posted 10/8/21

The county and the school system took different approaches when it came to quarantines.

Harnett County Schools, in an effort to reduce time students and staff spent in quarantine due to a …

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10 days vs. 7 days

Students must mask up after 7-day quarantine

Posted

The county and the school system took different approaches when it came to quarantines.

Harnett County Schools, in an effort to reduce time students and staff spent in quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure, dropped the minimum number of days absent from 10 to seven. Parents constantly complained about having to adjust their schedules and keep healthy, asymptomatic children at home due to a COVID exposure.

While the school system may have implemented such a timeframe, the county did not.
Harnett County Health Director John Rouse sent a letter to the school system recently stating the county has not adopted a similar seven-day quarantine, and people are still obligated to follow proper protocols when in public.

“The thing with going with the seven-day versus the 10-day is in the community, you’re still at a 10-day,” Rouse told the HCS Board of Education Monday night as the school system prepared to implement an optional mask wearing policy. “If you’re back in school in seven, you still have to do 10 community days.”

Harnett County introduced the 10-day quarantine in the spring as COVID-19 cases started to decline. Over the summer, however, the delta variant of the coronavirus caused a surge in local cases not seen since in months. Rouse told the board the county still is reporting a high positivity rate during contact tracing and deaths spiked in September. Harnett County reported 451 positive cases a week ago, marking a 225 decrease over seven days but still well above last winter when vaccines weren’t so readily available to the public.

“That is still higher than we were in the November, December, January timeline,” Rouse said. “We had more deaths last month in the county than we had at any time during the pandemic. To me, I would feel more comfortable if these numbers start going down. Our positivity rate last week was 9.8%. It had been as high as 14.8% three weeks ago.”

As parents spent the first part of Monday’s meeting sharing their thoughts on the system’s mask wearing option, HCS Superintendent Aaron Fleming wanted to remind everyone that every child returning from quarantine will have to sport a face covering until the county’s 10 days are up.

“When you come back on that day seven, you still have to wear a mask for the remainder of that quarantine period,” said Fleming.

Now that the school system moved forward with optional masks, Fleming said there are concerns the decision could lead to an increase in cases and quarantines, and that a building closing down temporarily is a possibility. Fleming said he chooses to wear a mask indoors when social distancing isn’t possible and the mandate originally was put in place to keep the quarantine numbers down.

Overhills High School faced a shut down before the Labor Day holiday weekend due to a high number of quarantines, but managed to avoid a closure.

“Our staff is worried,” Fleming said. “This is a difficult decision for our schools. Am I concerned about quarantines? Yes. I do fear quarantines could go up with optional masking because they have been high even with masking mandatory. We may have to enter remote learning at a school or multiple schools. My belief is that we must keep our students in school and if at any point that is threatened it’s my job to let you know that.”

According to the school system’s COVID-19 tracker, HCS reported 66 positive cases, including 13 staff, on Monday, which is down from 104 on Oct. 1. Quarantines dropped from 596 on Friday to 437 on Monday.

Rouse said a majority of the deaths related to COVID-19 continue to be people 65 and older, and no one under the age of 40 has died from the virus in Harnett County. More than 40% of the county’s 12 and older population is vaccinated.

“We started making progress but you’ve got to, with these seven days, you’ve still got to do the mitigating factors,” said Rouse. “There are a lot of things your staff will have to monitor.”

Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services Jermaine White said HCS is expecting an influx of funding in the next few weeks that will help the school system hire more staff, increase testing and expand contact tracing.

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2038.

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