Sumter School District sees lower quarantines, virus cases in 1st week of mask mandate


In its first full week of having a mask mandate and amid the recent decline in community COVID-19 spread, Sumter School District saw decreases in new virus cases and quarantines.

After recording 91 new COVID-19 cases among students and staff and directing 956 students to quarantine in week 7, the district had 77 virus cases and quarantined 749 students last week, according to data released Wednesday.

The week 8 totals represented a 14-case decrease in the virus and a drop of 207 students (or 22%) directed to quarantine from the prior week. The 77 new COVID-19 cases matched the lowest case count for the district in a week so far this school year. The 749 student-quarantine total was the second-lowest weekly tally for Sumter, and with just 15 teachers/staff quarantined last week, it was the lowest total for that indicator in eight weeks of school.

Of the 77 virus cases last week, 69 were students and eight were staff, according to the data.

The district has been using desk shields when appropriate for several weeks now, and the mask mandate for all students and staff went into effect on Oct. 4 after the district's Board of Trustees passed the measure by a 7-2 vote on Sept. 30.

A federal ruling two days earlier paved the way for school districts in South Carolina to be allowed to mandate masks. The ruling suspended the state from enforcing a ban on mask mandates.

Additionally, for the past few weeks, South Carolina has seen a decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, there were 1,021 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. This is down from 4,765 on Aug. 25.

While in quarantine, students receive online instruction.

The 749 students quarantined in the seven days from Oct. 2-8, representing week 8, 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 23 students quarantined last week did become a positive virus case, so their quarantine cycles restarted after they were identified, according to data.

Despite the declines, officials from the state health agency - including Dr. Brannon Traxler, public health director for DHEC - are urging residents to remain vigilant with practicing mitigation strategies to curb the spread of the virus because numbers have fluctuated in waves in the last year and a half.

"The combination of vaccinations and masking, along with other safety protocols," Traxler said recently, "is the only way that we will see a sustained decrease in case numbers that will eventually end this pandemic."