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home : news : news October 19, 2021

9/20/2021 10:36:00 PM
School Mask Update

Wayne Howard

Gaston County's School Board did as Cleveland County's had done last week. Meeting Monday (Sept. 20th), they voted 6-3 to continue their mask mandate until at least October 18th, the next regular school board meeting. The Cleveland County School Board had made the same decision at their meeting last Monday, keeping masks required by a 5-3 vote.

Catawba County's Board of Education will discuss masks again at its regular monthly meeting next Monday (Sept. 27th). Catawba County Schools COVID-19 quarantine numbers reached their peak on Sept. 2nd (1902), the day Catawba County Schools
mask mandate went into effect. While a few days since then have had numbers increased from the day before, most of them have seen a decline. The 768 in quarantine Monday (Sept. 20th) was the smallest number since August, Friday of the first week of school.

School boards in Harnett County (Monday Sept. 13th) and Lincoln County (Tuesday Sept. 14th) voted to end mask mandates. The vote in Harnett County was 3-2; in Lincoln County four members--Heather Rhyne (who made the motion), Mark Mullen, Christina Sutton and Tony Jenkins) voted to make masks optional effective next Wednesday (Sept. 29th). Myra Heavner, Joan Avery, and Todd Wulfhorst voted against the change.

Wulfhorst said he thought the three 'yes' voters had made up their minds before the meeting and called their decision "purely political."

Davin Madden, Lincoln County Health Director, and
Dr. Elizabeth Tillson, the Chief Medical Officer of the NCDHHS, spoke before the motion was made, telling about how numbers of COVID cases were growing, especially among school age children.

The weekly report on new cases in Lincoln County Schools confirmed that casesa re increasing. From 37 cases during the first week of school (Aug. 23-27), new cases increased to 90 in week #2 (Aug. 30-Sept. 3). The next week (Sept. 7-Sept. 10), school was closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday. The number of cases increased to 126. Last week's report issued Friday Sept. 17th shows 142 cases.

The largest number of cases in a single school was at G.E. Massey--25. Lincolnton Middle SChool had 17; Lincolnton High School 14. West Lincoln High, North Lincoln High, and East Lincoln Middle each had 10.

Lincoln County Schools has lost two staff members to COVID over the last two weeks. Cruceta Jeffeirs, a third grade teacher at Battleground School, was the first. Then Steven Raposeiro, a custodian and school bus driver for North Lincoln High died from the virus. Raposeiro's mother also died from COVID-19. Jeffeirs was 44; Raposeiro was 41.

The latest COVID Snapshot from the Lincoln County Health Dept. showed that over the two week period that ended last Wednesday, Lincoln County had more new cases in the 0-17 demographic than any other--36% of all new cases.

While the Union County School Board continues as one of only a handful of North Carolina school districts with masks optional, they did reverse one decison on Monday (Sept. 20th). By an 8-1 vote, school board members decided to "recognize quarantines" for students and teachers who come in close contact with people who test positive for COVID-19. Last week they had voted to ignore state rules and bring back any students or staff who did not have coronavirus symptoms and had not tested positive, even if they had been in close contact with someone who had the virus. That's the policy that Lincoln County's School Board also adopted at their meeting last Tuesday.

Statewide, NCDHHS reported the smallest number of new cases Monday that it has reported in the last three weeks. The percentage of positive tests also declined--to 10.3%. Hospitalizations, which had been pushing four thousand, declined to 3,323.

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