After weeks of rising confirmed COVID-19 cases among Morgan County students, a welcomed drop in the infection rate has plummeted in recent weeks.
Just eight new cases among students, and two new cases among staff, were detected for the week of Sept. 6 through Sept. 10. The week before that, 20 new cases were confirmed among students, and one among staff.
“The COVID spread rate in our schools has dropped dramatically over the past two weeks,” said Jay Homan, assistant superintendent of schools.
For most of August, the school system was reporting more than 50 new coronavirus cases per week, with a high of 87 new cases reported the week of Aug. 16. By that same week, more than 1,000 students, nearly 30 percent of all Morgan County students across four schools, had been deemed close contacts for exposure, some of whom were quarantined. In mid-August, the school system changed course, and reinstated coronavirus mitigation efforts to control the spread.
The school system also partnered with the Morgan County Health Department to offer eligible middle and high school students free COVID vaccinations in August. According to Homan, a total of 25 middle school students and 33 high school students were vaccinated through the effort.
“The Morgan County Department of Public Health provided vaccinations to students and staff at both the middle school and high school. Each recipient of the vaccine completed the Pfizer COVID-19 Consent Form and all consent was verified prior to administering the first dose,” said Homan.
“At the middle school, 25 students received the shot and 33 students received the shot at the high school. We also had six staff members who participated. Our local Department of Public Health staff will return to the middle school on Sept. 15 and to the high school on Sept. 16 to provide the second dose. Consent forms were completed and verified again for the second dose. Kudos to all our nurses and administrators for helping to coordinate this effort with our local Department of Public Health.”
In addition to offering students and staff free COVID vaccines, the school system has tightened up other COVID-19 restrictions, including encouraging students and staff to wear masks, but not mandating it.
Up until Wednesday, Aug. 11, the Morgan County School System had relaxed COVID-restrictions, forgoing a push for students and teachers to wear masks or social distance and resuming field trips, allowing visitors back into the school, buildings, and allowing large group activities to resume. However, after tracking the number of confirmed coronavirus cases during the first week and second week of school, along with the number of close contacts exposed, the school system announced reenacting COVID-19 prevention measures.
On Wednesday, Aug. 11, The Morgan County Charter School System called for mask-wearing among students and school staff, social distancing, and other preventative policies designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, “effective immediately.”
“The Morgan County Charter School System considers the health and safety of our students, staff, and community members as the highest priority. With the spread rate increasing in our community and in our schools, we plan to implement enhanced mitigation strategies effective immediately,” said a release from the school system.
“We are going to temporarily restrict non-essential visitors, limit field trips, encourage students and staff to wear a mask, reduce large group gatherings, and socially distance to the extent possible. Our adherence to these guidelines allowed us to remain in-person throughout the school year last year where many school systems were not so fortunate. We are confident that we can successfully navigate through these challenging times.”
As confirmed coronavirus cases decrease in Morgan County Schools, Superintendent Dr. Virgil Cole is encouraging staff, students and families to remain vigilant as the school year progresses.
“Thankfully, it appears that things are moving in the right direction with COVID numbers and the school system metrics we monitor. While hopefully some of our mitigation efforts have helped, it really comes down to the small decisions we all make and the efforts of our wonderful staff and students,” said Cole. “We have a ways to go, but we are certainly encouraged that we may have turned a corner with this latest wave. As always, we greatly appreciate the support of our community and families.”
According to school officials, offering free vaccinations to the eligible school population is the next step to thwart the spread of COVID-19 in the schools and throughout the community as a whole. School officials are urging all eligible staff and teachers to take advantage of the free COVID vaccines. For more information, including a fact sheet for the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine, visit the school’s website at www.morgan.k12.ga.us or contact your school nurse or the Morgan County Health Department.