Chris Crum

Greenup Health Department Director Chris Crum speaks at the Russell Rotary Club on Thursday. Rachel Adkins | The Daily Independent

GREENUP Steadily rising COVID-19 infection rates soon may put Greenup County into the red zone of more than 25 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, the county’s top public health official said Monday.

That would almost certainly trigger a temporary end to in-person classes at public schools in the county under guidelines set by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

Greenup County schools already have reverted temporarily to all-virtual instruction following a number of cases that led to a high number of quarantined students and teachers.

The same thing happened in the Boyd County district, although that county is not approaching the red-zone threshold. Both districts will go virtual only through at least Nov. 6. Boyd also closed all its day care facilities except the KinderCollege at Ashland Community and Technical College.

“The way cases have ramped up in the past seven to 10 days, my projection is we may possibly hit red by Tuesday,” said Greenup County Public Health Director Chris Crum.

The red zone is part of a statewide color-coded system public schools use to determine what steps, up to and including shutting down in-person classes, should be taken to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.

It measures average daily cases per hundred thousand population in the previous seven days. A map on the state’s COVID-19 website showed Greenup at 21.2 cases per hundred thousand and Boyd at 12.8.

The map showed close to half of Kentucky counties in the red, with all but a handful of the rest in the orange zone, which indicates heightened community transmission of the virus.

The quarantines in Boyd and Greenup left both districts without enough teachers able to come to school, and that is what triggered the move to virtual-only instruction for two weeks, according to school officials.

Boyd and Greenup County schools made the temporary switch Friday after quarantine numbers reached the critical stage.

In the Greenup County district, 108 students and 14 staffers are under quarantine, said Superintendent Traysea Moresea.

The students and staff quarantined are from schools across the district and the number had been slowly building over the preceding days, Moresea said. The underlying positive cases are not school-based but result from exposure in the outside community, she said.

Boyd schools took the step back to virtual-only because 113 students and 33 staffers are quarantined, Superintendent Bill Boblett said. Not all of the quarantined staffers are teachers, but enough teachers are affected that the district cannot cover all classes with those remaining, he said.

Under ordinary circumstances, schools can combine classes and have teachers cover for each other, but social distancing requirements make that impossible, both superintendents said.

Both schools are maintaining their food delivery service to students and information about that is on each district’s website.

Greenup is for now allowing some of its sports teams that are near the end of the season to continue, but will revisit that decision if necessary, Moresea said.

The move back to virtual may be unsettling but is necessary for safety, Moresea said. “It is quite the disruption to the families and students but its something we have prepared for,” she said. Lessons and class routines are already set up and the Friday notification allowed schools to send food home and to issue Chromebook computers as needed, she said.

Boblett said his district should be able to adapt smoothly to virtual-only since students already had experienced it earlier in the year.

The quarantined teachers in both districts will be able to teach virtually.

Russell schools are remaining in-person for now, but that could change this week, Superintendent Sean Horne said. If Greenup goes red Tuesday, school will probably remain in session Wednesday while school and health officials assess whether the red status will continue or drop back to orange within a day or two, he said. If he made the decision to close it would come Thursday.

Changing back and forth between in-person and virtual would itself be disruptive, he said.

The shift to red is expected, Horne said. “It’s inevitable. At some point this week we are going to be red on the graph.”

Russell already has designated Wednesdays as virtual-only at all four of its schools.

Raceland currently is in-person for preschool through fifth grades and virtual in grades 6-12, according to Superintendent Larry Coldiron.

Carter County schools also will return Tuesday to virtual-only until Nov. 4, according to Superintendent Ronnie Dotson. The move was based on a recommendation from Carter County Health Director Jeff Barker. Carter also will cancel all extracurricular activities, according to Dotson.

Dotson was unsure why Barker made the recommendation and Barker could not be reached immediately for comment.

Statewide, the infection rate is climbing, and Crum attributes that to people not wearing masks and congregating in large gatherings.

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