COVID-19 Information and Data Related to Jasper County
Sept. 27 - 9:30 to 4:00. Jasper County Health Department
Oct. 2 - 10:00 to 2:00. Hardeeville Rec Center
Oct. 4 - 9:30 to 4:00. Jasper County Health Department
Oct. 16 - 10:00 to 2:00. Ridgeland-Hardeeville HS
We will also be offering an on-campus clinic at the high school in the near future, as well, ( date to be announced shortly) to facilitate student vaccinations for those 12 to 17 year olds now eligible.
We urge you to take advantage of these opportunities - our best guarantee of getting kids back to school, getting our athletic teams back in action, is to get them vaccinated. The pandemic will continue to control our future as long as we do not.
As schools re-open, we are making a number of changes in our Covid strategy, as follows:
1. adding a new rapid testing site at our Hardeeville Campus.
2. adding three new personnel to our testing/contact tracing team
3. adding a DHEC-sponsored weekly random testing program of students and faculty to monitor the safety of the school environment. (Parents will be asked to sign consent forms for this purpose).
4. enforcing weekly testing for those who do not mask or are not vaccinated
5. establishing a regular schedule of on-site vaccination clinics to make sure we expedite vaccinations for all 12 - 17 year olds.
Having met with many faculty and staff members in recent days I know of the commitment of the great majority to come together and restore in-person learning as the norm. We are left, then, to contend with those who would exercise their individual rights at the expense of others, even the children they claim to serve. Consider this, too; South Carolina not only has the highest Covid case rate per capita in the United States, it ranks number 4 in the world (yes, the world) in that statistic. Combined with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S., we face the greatest threat to survival, not to mention public education. Sacrificing our children’s futures in the name of “personal choice” is beneath us, and unfair.
Given those considerations, our emphasis needs to be on vaccinating as many as we can as quickly as we can, and not just in schools. The high community case rate will continue to drive schools’ positive test rates; for students, vaccination for those eligible is a virtual guarantee we will be able to keep schools open without the constant threat of closure. Also, what was learned in the United Kingdom’s Covid success story is that masking is an all-important component of keeping case rates low.
Finally, on the anniversary of 9/11, let us not forget those we lost 20 years ago - and lest we forget, be reminded we are losing a 9/11 death toll number every two days to Covid.
We are also working to resolve a difficult issue concerning teachers’ right to full disclosure as to positive cases in their classrooms, and the district’s legal obligation (not choice) to keep HIPPA-sensitive information confidential. Disclosure is against the law. The problem resolves easily if teachers are vaccinated; close contact with a student or fellow staff member who tests positive does NOT require quarantining for the teacher. Per DHEC guidance she/he may continue to work as long as masked (even vaccinated individuals can spread the virus), and are tested 3-5 days after possible exposure. There is essentially no risk of serious illness in this circumstance. Unvaccinated is another matter: we are bound to err on the safe side if there is any question about close contact because of the seriousness of the illness that might ensue. That means quarantine according to protocol. But that entails, in turn, using sick time to cover absences. Vaccination makes better sense, of course. We will continue to work with our faculty to resolve the issue as best we can given constraints.
We have had a number of questions about whether the siblings of a student who has been exposed to COVID may continue to attend in-person learning. The short answer is yes, per DHEC guidance. The exposed student must quarantine for 10 days, but as long as he/she has no symptoms, siblings can attend school. If symptoms develop in the exposed individual, only then must siblings be quarantined and follow the same exposure protocol. ALL exposed students are tested on day 10, and can return to school on day 11 if they have a negative test and no fever or COVID symptoms.
So . . . how do we protect our school environments to keep kids where they need to be, in an in-person learning situation. Forget science, disagreements about masking policy, and above all personal freedoms (to assert yours you have to effectively deny someone else’s - remember, a sick child means a mom who can’t work, maybe your fellow staff member. Enough such instances mean loss of paychecks, staff shortages and further disruption of in-school learning). We are not even obligated so much out of concern for our fellow citizens (that would be nice, of course) as we are of necessity, then). And it seems to me we might all be able to agree, at least, that in-school learning is our number one priority, and to keep kids in school (and not in ICUs on ventilators). That demands of us that we find ways to share the obligation to accomplish that goal. So, please understand:
Masking works - and it becomes much more important given that a person with the delta version of COVID can spread 1000 times more viral particles by respiratory droplets than the old variant (why it’s so much more infectious).
Vaccination: essential to controlling spread, if we really are committed to keeping schools open - and, 99.5% protective against serious illness, hospitalization and death.
Our rapid testing site will re-open next week to facilitate the key element of early case detection and aggressive contact tracing. Details will be provided early next week as to location and protocols.