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Cabarrus County Board of Education gets update on mask mandate, seeks clarification on cases

Cabarrus Health Alliance shows decrease in cases, positivity rate, quarantines
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 7:16 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2021 at 8:44 AM EDT
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CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Cabarrus County Board of Education met for nearly two hours on Monday night to talk about the current COVID-19 protocols and answer questions.

“We know that there has been a lot of confusion within our community and within our system regarding quarantine and contact tracing and some of the COVID-19 update reports that have come out,” said Board Chair Holly Grimsley. “We felt that it was very important in order to make some clarification statements and be a little bit more transparent on what’s going on, especially with some of our surrounding counties, things that have taken place, to call this meeting and to share that with the general public and with our audience and our staff as well and just do a good meeting that would get a lot of information out here to a lot of people at one time.”

Erin Shoe from the Cabarrus Health Alliance presented current case information to the board. Showing several slides that indicated a decrease in cases and quarantines, Shoe told the board “everything you see here is headed in the right direction.”

“What you are doing and the strategies that you have in place are working,” Shoe said.

Shoe and other guests then answered a series of questions regarding the current mask mandate in Cabarrus County Schools. When asked why masks were now required, Shoe responded “to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the school setting, due to science. If the science isn’t what you like to follow, it’s also to reduce the number of students that we have to exclude, because if we start taking masks off in a classroom, then it opens up who we have to exclude as a close contact. By having that mask on in a classroom, when they’re worn, then we don’t have to contact trace, we don’t have to exclude. Those are the primary reasons, to prevent transmission and to prevent close contact quarantines in the classroom.”

Several weeks ago, the board voted to institute the mask mandate after a significant rise in cases across Cabarrus County. Two weeks ago the board updated the mandate, deciding to reduce contact tracing unless two cases come from a single classroom, bus, or athletic team, but that change was not put into place. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services sent very clear guidelines that same week that contact tracing must be done on every positive case so the plan to move forward with modifying the process stopped. Every single case is traced, according to an update from John Basilice, the Director of Student Services for Cabarrus County Schools.

As part of the presentation, the board saw a four-week trend that showed a “significant drop in the number of quarantines we’ve had.” On Aug. 30 the number within the school system was nearly 1,100; the quarantine number now is closer to 400. Across Cabarrus County, the positivity rate in testing for COVID-19 peaked at 15.6%. That number is now 11.1%.

Deaths, however, have been trending up in recent weeks. According to NCDHHS there have been a total of 302 COVID-related deaths in Cabarrus County since the pandemic began. Deaths are a lagging indicator after a surge, according to Shoe. “We saw the same with the holiday surge.”

“I think we’re doing a really good job of mitigating risk where we can mitigate risk,” Shoe added. “We’re slowly getting people vaccinated, not nearly as quickly as we would like to, so I think there are many confounding factors that go into that, but if you look at the winter surge, right, if you look at our holiday surge, it went up and came down as more people said ‘hey, this is out there,’ more prevalent, so there’s a lot of confounding factors.”

Monday night’s meeting can be seen in its entirety here: Cabarrus County Board of Education.

Community wide, cases and hospitalizations are down, according to the Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA).

“One of them being a mask for everyone that is 2 and older, and so this has definitely been a good mitigation strategy as well as vaccination rates. We have definitely gone up from the last time you were here, we have gone up to that 50% in Cabarrus County, I can definitely say these things have helped a lot,” said Tagny Diaz Solis of the Cabarrus Health Alliance.

On Tuesday the CHA reported 1485 active COVID19 cases in Cabarrus County, down from 1826 on September 21, 2101 on September 14, and 2322 on September 8.

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