Students and Families » COVID-19 Information and Data Related to Jasper County

COVID-19 Information and Data Related to Jasper County

UPDATE: January 14, 2022
Our decision to close schools this week comes quickly on the heels of the Omicron’s surge in the county. Omicron has gone from emerging threat to where it now accounts for 95% of Covid infections nation-wide in less than one month, testimony to its extraordinary infectiousness. And while case rates locally have shown more than a ten-fold increase in the past few weeks,  they still lag behinds levels in the upstate by a factor of more than two, suggesting the surge here will worsen over the next two to three weeks. Bearing that in mind, in just the past 10 days more than 15% of students in the district have been isolated (positive tests) or quarantined (because of exposure); staff numbers are close behind, bringing us to the point where staff shortages of themselves dictate a move to virtual learning. Added to that, our on-site testing and tracing capabilities have been overwhelmed to where we have no reliable way to prevent Covid cases gaining access to the school environment now. Finally, Omicron has created the situation where the schools actually become part of the problem, serving as “super spreaders” where, adequately protected, they were once sanctuaries.
The usual gaps in effective protection against spread - lack of compliance with precautionary measures in the larger community along with under-performing vaccination efforts - have been exposed further by the aggressive nature of this variant. The standard guidance, eg, defining “close contact” as 15 minutes in the presence of an infected individual unmasked, is clearly no longer defensible. Greeting someone at the door is likely enough to result in infection. Such considerations highlight the daunting challenge any congregant setting, such as a school, faces in trying to limit spread.
The ability of Omicron to infect vaccinated individuals emerges as yet another gap in our ability to protect students and staff. 
And please note -  anything we can do to limit rate of spread by diligent attention to precautions will greatly ease the effect of the surge on the workforce and the already struggling health care system.
If the current peak abates as quickly as it has seemed to in “hot spots” around the country, we can anticipate re-opening within a matter of weeks; that decision awaits demonstration of a decline in case rates to where our resources are better matched to the reality of the moment.
UPDATE: December 31, 2021
As we anticipate schools’ re-opening on Monday, January 3, 2022, we want to share our concerns about the potential impact of the coming Omicron surge, already devastating much of the country. 
Cases nation-wide are reaching levels never before seen in the pandemic principally because of the very infectious nature of this variant. 
Our expectation is that we will be caught up in the surge in due time, to what extent we have to wait to see. In the meantime, with our testing site monitoring the process on a day-to-day basis we are positioned to recognize the earliest indications of any worrisome trend and to act accordingly. 
There is no clear indication as to when that might occur. In keeping with our commitment to do everything we can to “normalize” the lives of our children and to continue in-school learning, we will proceed with re-opening as planned.
Remember, our best means of keeping schools open is for everyone to get vaccinated.
UPDATE: December 10, 2021
The country is now seeing the anticipated post-Thanksgiving surge in cases - hospitals again overwhelmed, non-COVID healthcare essentially suspended - and the worst is again yet to come. We have been spared, for the most part, but our turn will come. The upstate is definitely trending toward surge now, and the same factors that have always driven these resurgences are still in play, particularly vaccine hesitancy. The hardest hit areas nation-wide are those “red” states where vaccination defiance has dominated; red counties’ mortality rates are three times, the reddest six times higher than the national average. And as I have emphasized before, as long as there is a reservoir of susceptible individuals, those unvaccinated, the virus will not only continue its relentless scourge, but will continue to mutate to potentially produce even more dangerous variants, threatening even vaccinated individuals. In that connection: it appears that at this point the Omicron variant may not be as threatening as initially thought; the current surge is being driven by our old friend Delta; importantly, infection by both appears to be preventible by higher levels of immunity, especially that conferred by booster shots; and conversely, as immunity declines with time after original vaccination, susceptibility increases significantly, particularly in the elderly. 
We are working to get our kids vaccinated, as well - a clinic is scheduled at the high school tomorrow, Saturday, December 11, from 11:00 to 2:00 - everyone age five years and older is eligible at this event, and first and second vaccination shots will be available, in addition to boosters.
UPDATE: December 3, 2021
It’s been a quiet week on the COVID front. No measurable post-Thanksgiving bump here, either in DHECs case tracking or our own test facility numbers so far ( though the up-state is seeing some case increases). What must concern us now is the inevitable emergence of another potentially more dangerous variant of the virus, Omicron. One may ask, How does this keep happening? Thank your friends who won’t get vaccinated. As long as there is a susceptible pool of vulnerable individuals in which to replicate itself (we have 60 million of those in the U.S.), the virus will continue to evolve and develop ever more dangerous forms. Because Omicron has a dramatically greater number of mutations compared to its Delta predecessor (50-some vs. 3), there is the potential at least that the immune response established by vaccination will not recognize and/or react to it effectively. So far there is no indication that this will be the case; in the meantime, experience teaches that higher levels of immunity (the booster is very effective in doing that) will at least protect against serious illness. BE SURE TO GET YOUR BOOSTER SHOT. 
Our precautionary steps reaffirmed prior to Thanksgiving - proper masking, appropriate distancing, and vaccination - become all the more important now with impending Holiday gatherings and a new variant to contend with. 
UPDATE: November 19, 2021
IMPORTANT UPDATE: There is every reason to believe we will see another surge in COVID cases as we progress through the Holiday season - in fact, many states are already sorely tested again. We are accustomed to thinking that the the reservoir of susceptible individuals is limited to those who are unvaccinated; that is not the case this time around. For many who were vaccinated in early- to mid-Spring, the immunity conveyed is now beginning to taper off, leaving them once again susceptible to infection. Remember, the Delta variant hasn’t  changed - it is very aggressive and highly infectious. That means it can overpower a diminished immunity as the vaccine effect wanes. IT CANNOT BE STRESSED ENOUGH THAT THOSE ALREADY VACCINATED CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES BY GETTING A BOOSTER SHOT. Not only will the booster protect you, but reestablishing a high level of immunity in the community will greatly reduce the possibility of a major surge in infections.
UPDATE: November 17, 2021
UPDATE: November 12, 2021
COVID case rates in our area continue to be under control for the moment, but trends elsewhere indicate the Fall surge will come in some form. In Europe cases are up 50% in the past month; Germany, where viral spread has historically been better controlled, is seeing its highest infection rates since the pandemic began. And in western states in the US, health care is again being rationed because hospitals are overwhelmed. What’s different this time around is that the resurgence is not driven by a new more aggressive variant, but by our old friend Delta. That observation makes it obvious that we need to focus on the more fundamental root causes of surges: failure to maintain strict masking and distancing policies, and a sluggish response to the availability of vaccinations for kids. In Great Britain, e.g., the Covid spike is directly attributable to abandoning masking and other anti-virus measures in schools.
1. Our goal must be to avoid further school closures, and we will take a more aggressive approach to prevention now (not after a surge begins) to make sure we don’t further handicap the learning process.
2. Our mask mandate will remain in place. AND, we will begin a campaign to reinforce proper masking technique (NEWS FLASH: the virus does not come out your chin! Cover your nose! Using your mask as a fashion accessory does not prevent spread or exposure). Teachers and staff set the standard that students follow - you can be an effective role model and help us. Covid prevention is a team sport.
3. Based on our own experience last Fall, we can expect a modest spike in cases after the the Thanksgiving holiday, and a more substantial rise following the extended Christmas/New Year’s break. Accordingly, we will be operating our testing facility at the High School through the Christmas holiday season, schedule to be announced. We cannot afford to start the New Year two weeks behind in case recognition and contact tracing. Were that to happen, we would not be able to effectively contain an outbreak, and would surely risk more quarantines and closures.
4. We will hope to provide a convenient guide to vaccination opportunities for kids in the community within the week.
One final word of caution to vaccine avoiders: it is becoming clear that in at least 10% of patients, a chronic inflammatory state will persist indefinitely, so-called “long Covid”, producing open ended disability and often inability to work. Our Covid group is always available to discuss concerns and reservations with you.
UPDATE: November 4, 2021
We have experienced a dramatic decline in COVID case rates, over 90%, these past two months, following the pattern around the state. The school district has seen a corresponding decline in test positivity in students and staff; most of our positive tests now are in family groups, particularly in Hardeeville. While the news is encouraging, we need to be aware that this is exactly what we saw in March before the Delta variant caused another crisis (the highest case rates since the pandemic began). Though there is no present evidence of another emerging variant - the Delta - Plus version does not appear to be nearly as threatening - Great Britain and some European countries are experiencing an up-tick in case rates now. Those countries have always been a reliable predictor of what we can expect. The spread appears to be driven by unvaccinated children, which leads us to the point of this post. VACCINATING OUR KIDS is the key to preventing another spike, preventing loss of in-person learning time, getting the basketball teams on the courts, anticipating a complete season in front of fans, avoiding shutdowns. The beginning of flu season will soon be upon us as colder weather sets in and we we spend more time indoors and in closer contact. If we don’t play as a team, neither can our student athletes. Our kids are unprotected at this point. The vaccine is safe and effective.
UPDATE: September 20, 2021
DHEC will be offering a series of vaccination clinics in Jasper County, as follows:

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.
UPDATE: September 10, 2021

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.

UPDATE: September 3, 2021
We continue to see increasing COVID case rates, presently 40% higher than just a few weeks ago; surrounding counties are higher than we are, and DHEC sees no prospect for relief in the next two weeks or so. We know that consequently many more people in the community, those that are not vaccinated, will be infected; to put it another way, if you aren’t vaccinated in this high risk environment you will get COVID. And those high case rates will continue to drive the school positivity rate and prevent our re-opening. We have had 20 staff and faculty test positive in the past 10 days, and over 230 students were in quarantine as of Monday. The problem is very simple: no masking, not willing to get vaccinated means no school for our kids. Hard for this writer to believe under the circumstances that people are effectively saying, "I don’t care - not my problem.”

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.
UPDATE: August 30, 2021
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UPDATE: August 25, 2021


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.

Update: August 24, 2021
Community Forum: COVID-19 Protocols Q & A
UPDATE: August 20, 2021
We have seen a substantial rise in COVID case rates state-wide this past several weeks, and at least one school district has experienced an outbreak requiring temporary school closure. Student cases had risen by 65.5% and staff cases by 62.3% this past week alone, as schools have begun to open. Remember that the delta variant of the virus is affecting children to a much greater extent than did its predecessor alpha variant. Case rates in Jasper County are much higher than they have been at any time during the pandemic. All that is the result of the unusual infectiousness of the delta strain and our continuing low vaccination rates, which predict a continuing surge in infections.

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.
UPDATE: August 23, 2021
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UPDATE: August 23, 2021
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UPDATE: August 22, 2021
WATCH: Superintendent's COVID-19 Update
Closure (Switch to virtual learining) of RIdgeland-Hardeeville High School
UPDATE: August 13, 2021
We are currently paying the price for lack of compliance with basic precautionary measures - masking, appropriate distancing - and reluctance to get vaccinated. Jasper County has only a 25% vaccination rate. Hospitals nationally are swamped - ours soon will be - ALL those patients are unvaccinated. Many will die. Vaccination is the only way you can avoid the serious consequences of infection - and if you are unvaccinated, chances are the virus will find you. This is not about science at this point, but rather about common sense and a commitment to the common good.
UPDATE: August 6, 2021
I have some concern that the revelation that even vaccinated people can get COVID will create more confusion and give those already skeptical another excuse to avoid vaccination.
Here’s what we know: vaccinated people can be “infected”, meaning the virus may get past the first line of defense, but those so infected rarely get sick. Those so-called “breakthrough” infections are rarely even symptomatic, although mild and transient flu-like symptoms may occur - they essentially never result in the need for hospitalization. (In contrast, all hospitalizations and deaths now occur in those NOT vaccinated). One additional and important point as relates to our containment strategy; vaccinated people who have acquired even an asymptomatic COVID infection can spread the virus - and neither you nor I can’t tell who those people might be. You might ask, Why not just test everybody? Unfortunately, that is beyond the scope of our license and capability; what we will do is to be sure anyone, even those vaccinated, who is exposed to someone with COVID quarantine per our usual protocol and be tested 3-5 days after that exposure. But this new understanding adds even more emphasis to the need to mask up; bear in mind the Legislature’s ban on mask mandates has nothing to do with interpretation of science and certainly not with a commitment to keeping our kids safe. I remind you, too, that the problem is compounded further by the stark reality that  kids, by virtue of their not being vaccinated (and unable to be vaccinated) are now the most vulnerable among us. 
So . . . MASK UP! The Legislature wants to make this about your right to choose and not about the safety of kids and staff in schools, so CHOOSE!
This is simply at this point not so much a matter of science as it is about common sense. We need to get our kids back to school.
UPDATE: July 30, 2021
As we approach school reopening next month it is time to update you on the District’s  plans for managing the current COVID situation. Our success going forward depends on the community’s understanding of and willingness to share in the process of getting kids safely back to school. 
So, what do we know?
First, we know our kids must get back to school. Too much has been sacrificed already. Underlying our entire COVID strategy is to make sure we meet that expectation. And, there is the problem. The challenges involved in keeping the now prevalent and much more infectious Delta variant (those infected spew 1000 times more viral particles than the earlier Alpha variant) out of our schools include:
- the potential for community spread is very high given the behavioral characteristics of the new variant coupled with the fact that we live in a region where vaccination rates are low. Remember, this is now a disease of the un-vaccinated.
- the new variant disproportionately affects kids (in part because they aren’t vaccinated); eg, one third of new COVID cases in North Carolina are now children 17 and under.
- members of our school community live areas now designated as “hot spots”, with increasing numbers of new cases. Without proper precautions, there is the possibility that one or two such individuals could set off an event that would require us to close our schools.
- kids who become infected likely won’t become seriously ill, but they will carry the virus home where those more vulnerable to serious illness because of age - grandma, eg - or coexisting medical conditions - diabetes, kidney failure, etc - will suffer the more serious consequences. It should go without saying that in protecting our children and staff we are protecting the community, as well.
So, what can we do as a community?
First, recognize that the ending of the masking mandate is NOT based on best medical guidance and ignores the success we achieved last year in preventing in-school spread by using such simple precautionary measures. So, mask up. There are no penalties imposed on those in the schools who choose to not do so, but they will be required to undergo weekly COVID testing.
Second, GET VACCINATED. The virus hates that.
Also, follow the guidance strongly urged by the CDC and DHEC (we will update that weekly in this space) - they are not reflective of anything more or less than concern for the very real consequences of noncompliance.
We will soon re-open our rapid testing site to identify students and staff before they can expose others in school, and to allow immediate contact tracing to prevent its further spread. Further details will be provided in our update next week.
UPDATE: July 28, 2021
UPDATE: April 2, 2021
As we head into the Spring break, we are making good progress with staff/faculty vaccinations now, and the school environment has remained safe and secure these past several weeks. A potential threat is looming in the form of the UK COVID variant B.1.1.7, now accounting for 30% of infections across the U.S.. It’s more aggressively infectious character, with more serious illness affecting younger age groups, is being felt in Michigan, e.g., where COVID cases have tripled over the past few weeks. We know this variant form is present now in our region of the state, and will likely dominate whatever surge awaits us. As difficult as it must seem to face another wave of infections, we need the patience to stay with masking, distancing and had-washing for the time being. It should be noted that our community has done well in recognizing our obligation in protecting others, particular those most vulnerable, by standing firm against those who downplay the threat and so put the rest of us at risk.
Happy Spring break and a Happy, safe Easter to all.
UPDATE: March 5, 2021
We have had a busy week managing real and suspected cases of COVID infection in our testing/guidance facility, but we can report a perfect record in preventing access of anyone potentially infected to the school environment with our present strategy. We have to this point seen no in-school spread of infection.
Vaccination scheduling will begin this week for staff and teachers as part of phase 1b. Parenthetically, if you are over 55 and have co-morbities, you are eligible to participate, as well,.
One important caution as we see infection rates subsiding further: you will see that governors in at least two states have lifted masking requirements and are opening public gathering places without restriction. This is not just wrong-headed and irresponsible; it will once again put those at highest risk of serious illness in harm’s way. Experts now warn that the present lull in case rates is likely the calm before the storm. The appearance of several new variants of the virus is expected to result in another surge in infections within weeks; if so, relaxing precautionary measures only allows the virus to spread more rapidly and more widely. The result might well erase all the gains we have made to this point, and lead to more unnecessary deaths. We urge you to stay patient with the precautionary process until the vaccination rollout reaches more members of the community and we achieve higher levels of immunity.
UPDATE: March 1, 2021
COVID infection rates have declined significantly across the state these past two weeks with the exception of Allendale and Barnwell counties. We remain alert to the possibility we will see a resurgence with the appearance of several new variants of the virus which are more infectious, so continuing mask and distancing precautions remains of paramount importance. I am happy to report that our school district’s testing/guidance protocols have been successful in preventing any introduction or spread of the virus in our school environment so far - thanks to all for your participation in this important strategy to keep schools open and safe.
UPDATE: February 12, 2021
While there has been some decline in COVID case rates these past two weeks we are still experiencing significant levels of new cases and test positivity rates, as expected. 
STAFF, FACULTY AND PARENTS: Quarantine periods and return to school authorizations are now regulated by our COVID protocols, as per CDC and DHEC guidance. Test results, positive or negative, activate the protocol appropriate to your particular circumstances. Our COVID nurse, Ms. Gizelle Bradshaw, conducts rapid testing at our JCAP facility; if your situation requires PCR testing, you be referred to the Coastal Carolina Hospital test facility. In either case, Ms. Bradshaw will guide you through the appropriate steps. You will be screened by her prior to allowing your return to work/school in order to document compliance with protocol requirements. THIS IS HOW WE CAN BEST PROTECT THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT AND OTHER  EMPLOYEES AND STUDENTS. No exceptions are permitted.
Remember - schools are safe because we keep potential spreaders out, and because we enforce precautions strictly. And, the more you practice masking and distancing outside of school the safer all of us are.
UPDATE: February 5, 2021
COVID case rates have fallen significantly across the state, and in Jasper County, at least a brief respite from the post-Holiday surge.
Three important cautions:
1. This does not mean the virus is under control; quite the contrary. The easing of infection rates means only that we are returning to the levels we saw before the recent surge.
2. This is not the result of vaccination roll-out.
3. The emergence of several new COVID strains which appear to be more aggressive, combined with the coming Spring break, will certainly produce another surge, one that will challenge us again. The weather always seems calmest just before the hurricane arrives, too.
Another lesson is taught by the observation that, compared with other congregant settings, schools experience essentially no in-school spread  of infection, meaning that the protective measures, simple as they may seem, are extremely effective. Unprotected social and congregant settings will continue to be our principal sources of spread, and the major threat to keeping schools open.
Finally, your participation in the vaccination program is crucial to ending the pandemic. Remember that our drive-up JCAP test center provides not only rapid results but also professional guidance if you are sick.
UPDATE: January 29, 2021
As we anticipate re-opening schools our planning and focus first and foremost is on the safety of your children and our faculty and staff. We know from the experience in other school districts - and many are open now - that the school environment is safe as long as we follow strict guidelines:
1. Students or faculty/staff who have symptoms suggesting COVID infection must be tested as soon as possible. Our testing facility on Grays Highway is open every day from 8 AM until 4 PM, staffed by a highly qualified RN professional who will guide you through the process. Our testing is highly accurate, provides an answer in 15 minutes while you wait. 
2. If your test indicates you have COVID: our nurse specialist will discuss how to proceed from there, and answer any questions and concerns you will have. We will ask you to name those with whom you have been in contact so we can inform them of their exposure and begin their quarantining before they expose others. THIS PROCESS IS COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL - names of those exposed are NOT shared or revealed.
3. Our school facilities are fully compliant with the highest safety standards provided by DHEC and by the Department of Education. 
4. Our biggest threat is not the school environment - COVID comes to school with those who bring it. We have to share the responsibility to see re-opening succeed, so: masking, hand-washing, distancing will continue to be what we need the community to do to assure our success.
UPDATE: January 22, 2021
The COVID case rate in the County remains at a high level. We again urge anyone who develops what they think might be COVID symptoms to go to our rapid testing site (JCAP building on Grays Hwy) as soon as possible - no appointment necessary - to be sure you get appropriate care, and to help us contain the possible spread of infection to others. We are learning that much of the COVID illness we are seeing still comes from failing to wear masks in close indoor work situations, and from failure to distance. All of the cases in students and staff have been brought into the school setting from community contacts. Our testing program is intended to prevent further spread within the school environment itself. Please bear in mind that we can keep schools open if we all take our share of responsibility in this effort. “Spread the word, not the virus”!
UPDATE: January 15, 2021
JCSD Announces Opening of District Testing Site
UPDATE: January 8, 2021
Two important updates: first, as expected,  we are seeing a significant rise in COVID case rates, and our test positivity numbers are now on a par with the rest of the State. In view of these developments, the timing of school re-opening will likely be delayed, if only briefly, until we can get our rapid testing program up and running to safeguard the start-up. We expect that testing facility to be operational within two weeks. In locating it at an off-campus site, the old high school building (now JCAP) on Grays Highway, we can avoid bringing potentially sick individuals into the school setting. The process is structured to provide maximum convenience, efficiency and confidentiality; no appointments necessary, drive-up testing in your car, results available while you wait, within 15 minutes. Importantly, this approach will allow us to start contact tracing immediately, before those contacts can spread the virus further. We know this approach will make it possible to get our kids back to school safely. We know, based on others’ experience, that this kind of approach has essentially eliminated in-school transmission of the virus.The program will be organized and managed by Ms. Gizelle Bradshaw, an RN with extensive experience in both pediatric and adult medicine, as well as public health. We expect to be able to extend our testing capability to Hardeeville once our Ridgeland site is operational.
Finally, our success in a venture that is acutely aware of the need to get kids back to school, on the one hand, and that must protect the safety of our kids and school staff, depends on our community at large having confidence in and participating in the process. “Spread the word, not the virus!"
UPDATE: December 31, 2020
COVID-19 cases have increased by 50% in lowcountry S.C. this past month, a trend that is expected to continue for the next several weeks. About 9% of these cases are school-aged children - that percentage has not changed significantly. While the largest number of COVID deaths occur in those over 65 (they account for about 80% of deaths), there has been a dramatic increase in deaths among US adults ages 25 to 44, as well. Importantly, according to the CDC, Black and Hispanic people make up not just a disproportionate number of cases but a majority of COVID-19 deaths in this age group. The idea of risk, then, applies to ALL of us. We will supplement our efforts to control spread of the virus with a rapid testing program for those with symptoms - results in 15 minutes - to allow sure identification of those infected, and to identify contacts before further spread occurs. Particulars concerning the testing program - location, schedules, etc, - will be posted at our next update, Friday, Jan. 8. Awareness and implementation of this testing approach bring us one step closer to returning our kids to school. All that said, we also know that as much science as we can bring to bear on this problem, it is not in itself sufficient. Now abundant experience teaches that mask-wearing, distancing, limiting indoor gatherings, etc remain the most effective means of blunting another surge in cases. 
Finally, the initial round of vaccinations is now underway, specifically for phase 1a individuals - healthcare workers, long term care facility residents and staff. The next phase, 1b, is expected to include teachers and school staff. We will provide updates on specifics as they become available.
We all pray, finally, for a healthy Happy New Year. 
UPDATE: December 24, 2020
Covid case rates will continue to increase through the Holidays as the result of travel and gatherings; establishing a readily accessible rapid testing becomes, accordingly, critical in limiting further spread of the virus. The timing and feasibility of school re-opening will depend on how effective we can be in early case recognition and contact tracing. It will take until the third week of January before we will know the full effect of the continuing surge in Jasper County. In the meantime, particulars relating to the testing process, and location of and access to our testing site on Grays Highway will be provided in next week’s update, Thursday, December 31. We anticipate that facility will begin operations no later than January 11.
UPDATE: December 18, 2020
Over the past week Jasper County has experienced a sharp increase in Covid cases - about a 50% rise in 7 days - not unexpected, and consistent with numbers from all areas of the state. This is the biggest surge we have seen here since the pandemic began, and unfortunately almost certain to be further worsened by the coming post-Christmas surge. Accordingly, the delay in-school learning will remain in place at least until January 20. All must understand we are entering a period of very high risk. WEAR YOUR MASK AND BE SURE TO DISTANCE. By this time next week (we will post our next update THURSDAY DEC 24) we will share our plan for student/faculty rapid Covid testing testing, to start soon after January 1. Even though all students will be in the virtual learning program, it is important that anyone experiencing potential Covid symptoms - particularly shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, cough, loss of taste or smell, temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher - come to a testing site as soon as possible. Younger children may have milder symptoms, including runny nose, sore throat, or stomach upset and diarrhea. Anyone who develops symptoms while in quarantine must also be tested promptly. Results of this new test are available in 15 minutes, so appropriate medical follow-up can be arranged promptly; and, it will allow us to identify contacts quickly to limit the further spread of the virus. We must assure we are doing everything possible to protect both our school community and the community at large.