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Union County School Board will recognize quarantines for close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases

The motion passed on an 8-1 vote following a special-called meeting in which the board met for over 90 minutes in executive session before holding the vote in public via a virtual meeting.
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 9:04 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 12:53 PM EDT
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UNION COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) – The Union County Board of Education approved a motion to recognize quarantines of students and staff who are considered close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases, in accordance with state law.

The motion passed on an 8-1 vote following a special-called meeting in which the board met for over 90 minutes in executive session before holding the vote in public via a virtual meeting.

According to the motion, the school board will continue to follow its legal obligations of reporting positive cases to Union County Public Health and provide relevant information to county health officials.

Additionally, Union County Public Schools will require students who are symptomatic or positive for COVID-19 to stay home.

During the brief public meeting, board members said Union County Public Health has taken over primary responsibilities of contact tracing and has reduced the length of the quarantine period of asymptomatic individuals, in accordance with state law.

According to the district, those in quarantine will not be allowed back in school until completion of their quarantine orders from Union County Public Health.

The board reversed course from a week ago, when the members made the controversial decision to end contact tracing and quarantining within Union County Public Schools.

Days after that decision, North Carolina State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen sent the district a letter asking Union County to comply with state guidance by Friday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m., or legal action could be taken.

By the end of the week, officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said their attorneys had “productive conversations” with Union County School Board attorneys about their safety protocols in order to avoid legal action against the district.

Parents are reacting on both sides of this decision. Some see this as a move in the right direction. Other parents are fearful that the health department won’t have the staff to do contact tracing fast enough, leading to more cases.

He says he’d like to see the number of quarantine days reduced or eliminated altogether. But he says this reduced number is a step in the right direction.

“While these might have been reasonable in the opening months of this pandemic where we knew very little about the disease and how it affected children and what populations it affected,” he said.”To keep a kid 7, 10 days out of school out of the suspicious of being exposed, seems to me absolutely unnecessary and overkill.”

But Elena Brown disagrees. She says if a majority of students are already not wearing masks, contact tracing is the only way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re the only county practically in the state without masks. And when they got rid of the contact tracingi and practically all quarantines, people were in shock,” Brown said.

With the bulk of the responsibility on the health department to contact trace, she worries her kids could fall through the cracks.

“If the school nurses aren’t involved and the school aren’t directly involved in that, they’re putting it all on the health department, they don’t have the human resources to keep up with that,” she said. “It could be a week or two weeks before you find out and then it’s too late and you’ve infected many other people.”

Because of Union County Public Schools’ decisions on masks and no contact tracing, Brown took unpaid leave from her teaching job at a Union County school to homeschool her son who has asthma.

“I couldn’t risk my son’s safety either. We just have to pray and hope that the county, the commissioners the governor, someone has to be the adult in the room and stand up for safety,.” Brown says.

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