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McIntosh Co. watching as high rate of COVID-19 spreads among kids

(WTOC)
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 4:47 PM EDT
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MCINTOSH COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - We’ve detailed how the trend among kids is playing out close to home.

Data from the Coastal Health District continues to show McIntosh County as a high transmission area. Kids between the ages of 5 to 17-years-old are majority of the positive COVID-19 cases in the county.

Dr. Lawton Davis says the virus is spreading amongst the 5-17 year old age group more than any other school age group in McIntosh County, even going on to say it is extremely high.

So let’s take a look at the numbers. According to data, as of Wednesday, McIntosh County has had 2,670 newly confirmed COVID cases per 100,000 people in the last 14 days.

Whereas 0-4 years old is 1,351, 18-22 years old is 2,504, and 23 and older is 1,315. Compare that to the case rate for 5-17 year-olds, which is 6,031. That’s almost three times higher than the county’s overall case rate.

Dr. Davis says it was smart of McIntosh County Schools to pause in-person learning for a few weeks, as the numbers and studies show students are catching the virus easily and spreading it quickly.

However, he is concerned as we enter the Labor Day weekend, saying there is the possibility of these numbers rising even higher.

“The potential is there for families and friends to get together and relax their guard. If they’re outdoors, that’s better than indoors, but still if you’re up close in person, and kids playing and crawling all over each other. The potential is there to spread the virus,” said Dr. Lawton Davis.

Dr. Davis’ concerns are greater with the school district is returning in-person after the holiday weekend and masks will not be required throughout the school day in classrooms.

Returning to school in-person

After two weeks of virtual learning, McIntosh County students will head back to the classrooms on September 7.

During this pause on in-person learning, the school system has been deep cleaning schools and buses, after a rise in COVID-19 cases.

McIntosh County Schools superintendent says face-to-face instruction is the best way to provide students the proper education. That’s why the school system has decided to bring students back into the classrooms next week, with virtual being an option for only qualified students.

“The long term effects of staying home and working virtual is devastating,” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Pulos.

Any family who wants their child to learn virtually must contact their child’s school.

Dr. Jim Pulos says the child will have to meet certain criteria to be approved for virtual learning including if it’s best suited for that individual child.

“If they’re not successful during the pause, the likelihood is that they won’t be successful as we would like to see during the actual virtual experience.”

Some major changes come next week. Make sure your child has a mask with them.

“When there are large groups assembled, such as on buses and during transition times, we want our students to wear their mask. Within the classroom, the parents still have that prerogative to say I want my child to wear a mask.”

McIntosh County Academy students will now start at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m., alleviating the down time for students to be together.

“We want to be able to go ahead and get them started and separated into their classrooms earlier, as well as make sure we’re departing earlier and getting them home.”

Dr. Pulos showed us case numbers within the schools, which shows a downward trend of students and staff testing positive since the start of virtual learning.

The school system will continue monitoring trends at the schools and at the county level. Dr. Pulos asks families to remain patient and flexible, as changes are possible.

“If we have to pause again, we pause again, but long term virtual is really not beneficial and I think there are long term consequences.”

Dr. Pulos says data proves getting the vaccine prevents the spread of the virus, and is encouraging staff and eligible students to do so. He says the school system has even put out a survey to staff and parents to see if there’s any interest in a vaccine clinic if the district partners with the local health department.

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