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Quarantine numbers are getting attention

A recent COVID-19 incident at Mountaineer Middle School was indeed the first case of a student-to-student transmission of the virus in Monongalia County school building.

Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. made that official during Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

That case capped a tumultuous week in the county for COVID, but the superintendent urged board members and the public to focus on the numbers of positive cases – opposed to the resulting numbers of classmates and staffers placed in isolation for safety.

“We’ve been dealing with positive cases on an almost daily basis,” he said.

It’s the resulting quarantine numbers, he told the BOE, “that have been getting everyone’s attention.”

That’s because last week’s six positive cases among five students and a teacher, netted quarantines of 191 students and three employees for safety.

“And that’s with 7,500 students back in school,” he said.

That total comprises 60 percent of the county’s total 12,500 students who have returned for five-day, in-person learning this term.

By directive of Mon’s health officer Dr. Lee Smith, the district is strictly adhering to a 14-day quarantine period.

Anything less, such as, say, a 10-period, could cause it all to tip to the worst-case, Smith told the superintendent.

At the current rate of positive cases, in relation to the number of Mon students back in school, however, don’t look for any buildings to shift to remote learning anytime soon, the superintendent said.

“The positive cases just aren’t there,” Campbell said.

Come May, meanwhile, there may be more spectators allowed at the outdoor graduation ceremonies of Mon’s three high schools.

Each senior in the Class of 2020 last year was permitted to bring two people to commencement exercises.

That number for this year may go up to four, Campbell said – but Smith has yet to sign off for that allowance.

The health officer, the superintendent said, is sill monitoring the county’s infection rates.

And the health department will also help the district monitor students who have may have been exposed to the coronavirus in coming days.

School health officer Susan Haslebacher and her department have done the contact tracing to date that’s required any time a student or employee comes down with COVID.

Last week’s cases and quarantines, he said, show contact tracing has to cut an even wider swath in the district.

The district, though, will cut just as wide as swath with the administering of the Moderna vaccine in a clinic Friday at Morgantown High School.

Some 600 to 700 shots will go into the arms of teachers and other employees for their second dose, Campbell said.

Shots will also be administered to select family members over the age of 18 also in their households, the superintendent said.

“That’s more exciting than a Friday night basketball game,” he said.