Carter County Schools postponed the start of school to Aug. 16 due to COVID cases rising in the county, particularly in school-age children. The school district was set to begin instruction Thursday.
The county currently has 38 school-aged individuals who have tested positive for the virus in recent days, according to Carter County Health Director Jeff Barker.
This number does not include recent positive tests of adults, which includes teachers as well as those of both age groups who are in quarantine. That number is closer to 110-115.
The county is in the red and Barker said the district should be following red county guidelines according to the state. Those guidelines, found on chfs.ky.gov, include increasing vaccination efforts, physical distancing, masking, using outdoor spaces and postponing large public events.
The Carter County School District posted this on it’s Facebook page Monday afternoon: “Upon recommendation of the Carter County Health Department, due to the increased number in (COVID) cases among school-aged children, Carter County Schools will delay the start of the school year until Monday, Aug. 16. No extracurricular activities (games & practices) are permitted through Aug. 16. Information will be re-evaluated at the end of next week.”
Barker said he suggested, rather than recommended, that the district’s board of education consider postponing school for two weeks to see if the cases drop when everyone stops traveling or introduce universal masking for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the classroom. The school board was the decision maker on the delay, not Barker.
Barker is hopeful the numbers will begin to drop. However, he said precautions such as masking and hand hygiene as well as vaccination will help those numbers drop and stay lower.
“If we can get people to vaccinate, that’d be great,” said Barker. “(People who are) unvaccinated at least wearing masks again.”
Many of the cases in children are related to summer travels like camps, according to Barker. The transmission rate of the Delta variant is high and much more contagious than the previous strain impacting the county, said Barker.
He added that only seven of the 110-plus cases were in vaccinated individuals and none of those have resulted in hospitalization. All of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.
“We’re just in hopes we’ll see an increase in vaccination and a downturn in numbers,” said Barker.
When Aug. 16 rolls around, if the numbers haven’t dropped, Barker said his suggestions will be the same, but it’s ultimately up to the school board as there are no state mandates at this time.
“There is no reason why school couldn’t go as planned, I would think that it would be a good idea to do a universal masking for vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike in mass gatherings if we’re still in the red, and that’s per CDC guidelines,” said Barker when asked about his recommendation if the numbers are unchanged or increasing come Aug. 16.
“CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place,” according to cdc.gov.
Two Back-to-School COVID vaccination clinics are scheduled through King’s Daughters Medical Center in the district. Clinics are scheduled Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at West Carter High School and noon to 3 p.m. at East Carter High School.
The clinics will offer the Pfizer vaccine to students aged 12 years and older with parent consent, along with school staff and families. Those interested can call (606) 475-5500 to schedule.
The Carter County Health Department also vaccinates each Friday with all three vaccines. The number to call is (606) 474-6685 ext. 040.
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