Sumter School District virus cases, quarantines up slightly; next week's report will reflect 1st week of mask mandate


In its final week before implementing a mask mandate, Sumter School District saw slight increases in new positive virus cases and student quarantines.

After recording 77 new COVID-19 cases among students and staff and directing 909 students to quarantine in week 6, the district had 91 virus cases and quarantined 956 students last week, according to data released Wednesday.

The week 7 totals represented a 14-case increase in the virus and an increase of 47 students (or 5.2%) directed to quarantine from the prior week. Overall, totals are still much lower from the initial three weeks of the school year when the district averaged 184 new COVID-19 cases and 2,200 students were sent to quarantine weekly. The 956 student-quarantine total was the third-lowest week so far and represents 6% to 6.5% of district enrollment.

Of the 91 virus cases last week, 83 were students and eight were staff, according to the data.

Indoor mask wearing, desk shield usage, appropriate hand washing and respiratory etiquette have all been cited by district administration as likely contributing factors in the lower numbers in recent weeks. Additionally, the spread of COVID-19, including hospitalizations locally and regionally, has declined in the state and nation since peaking last month.

While in quarantine, students receive online instruction.

The 956 students quarantined in the seven days of Sept. 25-Oct. 1, representing week 7, have return dates that may have ranged from Tuesday until early next week if they don't develop any COVID-19 symptoms. A total of 32 students quarantined last week did become positive virus cases and their quarantine cycles did restart again after they were identified, according to data.


Next week's totals from the district will reflect the first week of the district-wide mask mandate, which started Monday in all schools.

State public health department guidance says a masked student determined to be between 3 feet and 6 feet of a positive, infected student is not considered a "close contact" and does not need to quarantine. However, an unmasked student within 3 feet to 6 feet of an infected student is a "close contact" and is required to quarantine.

In discussion with the district's Board of Trustees on advantages for a mask mandate, Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox emphasized that particular state guidance and that student quarantines - often 10 days - are disruptive to the learning process.

The decline in COVID-19 spread may also be a factor if district totals decrease in next week's data release.