Week 5 in Sumter School District saw continued declines in new virus cases and quarantines, and totals again represent new low marks so far for the school year.
After recording 125 new positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff and directing 1,038 students to quarantine in week 4, the district had 81 virus cases and quarantined 718 students in the week ending Friday, according to data released Wednesday.
The week 5 totals were more than 30% reductions in both categories from the prior week. The 718 student-quarantine total represents about 4.5% of district enrollment after Sumter directed more than 2,000 students to quarantine in both the second and third weeks of the year.
Of the 81 virus cases last week, 75 were students and six were staff, according to the data.
Statewide, trends didn't improve last week as virus case counts roughly doubled from the week prior, according to Ryan Brown, chief communications officer with the state Department of Education.
In Sumter, district spokeswoman Shelly Galloway said mask wearing, desk shield usage, proper hand washing and respiratory etiquette are likely contributing factors in the lower numbers.
"We are just continuing to stress to the community, our staff and our students the importance of wearing face masks," Galloway said, "and that we must all do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus."
She added it's also of utmost importance for students and staff to not go to school or work if they are experiencing virus symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.
Students determined to be less than 3 feet from an infected student for a total of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period are classified as "close contacts," even if wearing a mask, and are directed to quarantine - unless they have been fully vaccinated. Children under the age of 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated in the U.S.
While in quarantine, students receive online instruction. Students in the early grades may receive instructional packets instead.
The 718 students quarantined in the seven days of Sept. 11-17, representing week 5, have return dates that may have ranged from Tuesday until early next week if they don't develop any COVID-19 symptoms.
WHAT ABOUT LIBERTY STEAM CHARTER?
As of Wednesday, Liberty STEAM Charter School, a public school that is under the auspice of a statewide charter school district, had just five students (2.6%) in quarantine and no positive virus cases of its 192 total students, according to Chief of Staff Trevor Ivey.
Following Labor Day, Liberty implemented a new mitigation strategy that includes transitioning instruction from classroom tables to individual desks spaced 3 feet apart in the K-1 school. Additionally, Ivey said, there is minimal transition of students within the school building during a day.
In 17 days with the new policies, Liberty has had two positive virus cases, and neither was determined to be within the school environment, Ivey said.
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