More than 14,000 students placed in quarantine; many school districts transition to online-learning only

Published 3:51 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2020

More than 14,000 students in Mississippi have been placed in quarantine within the last week, according to the state. That’s compared with about 9,000 students during the previous week.

In the same time period, more than 1,400 teachers and staff have been placed on quarantine up from 782 staff members during the previous.

Public and private schools across the state are grappling with rising cases of the virus and how to best handle the situation.

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School districts across the state are moving to online learning only due to the increase in cases. Some are moving to online learning until after the Thanksgiving break. Some are moving to online-only learning for the remainder of the semester.

Schools are required to report on a weekly basis the numbers of teachers and students who test positive for coronavirus or are in quarantine, as well as the number of outbreaks in a school. The data released by the Mississippi State Department of Health for this past week was based on data reported by 880 of the 1,200 schools in the state.

The health department is now tracking how many schools have opted to temporarily transition to virtual learning because of outbreaks. More than 65 schools have gone virtual within the last week becasue of outbreaks or an increased number of teachers and students in quarantine, Byers said.

The MeridianPublic School District was one of the latest school districts to move to online learning Wednesday after an increase in cases of COVID-19 in Lauderdale County and in the school system, according to superintendent Amy Carter.

“Please know that this was not a decision that we made lightly. However, after conferring with the MSDH (Mississippi State Department of Health), it is necessary to shift to virtual instruction before the holiday break to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Carter said in a letter to parents.

Newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus among students in Mississippi have nearly doubled in a week’s time, according to data released by the department of health.

The number of students who tested positive for coronavirus increased from 579 from Nov. 2 through Nov. 6 to more than 1,000 from Nov. 9 to Nov. 13. Last week, schools reported 70 outbreaks, which means more than three cases were reported within a confined setting over the course of two weeks.

“You see that things are really starting to heat up,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Tuesday during a virtual briefing with reporters. Byers was addressing coronavirus developments in Mississippi’s school system.

Children generally don’t appear to get sick or experience symptoms as often as adults when they’re infected with coronavirus. However, since the start of the pandemic, at least three children have died of complications from the virus, Byers said.

The Mississippi State Department of Health said Tuesday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has reported more than 135,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 3,581 deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday evening. That’s an increase of 905 cases and 36 deaths from the day before. Nineteen deaths occurred between Nov. 10 and Nov. 16 and were identified later using death certificates.

While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.