Face masks will be required at Jefferson and Robertsville middle schools starting Monday as they each reported at least seven new COVID-19 cases since Thursday, and 21 new cases were reported in all Oak Ridge schools, including among students and staff members. Eighty-one new cases have been reported in the past 1.5 weeks.
There are now three Oak Ridge schools that require face masks: Jefferson Middle School, Robertsville Middle School, and Willow Brook Elementary School. Willow Brook, which had the first outbreak of COVID-19 cases, required face masks starting this past Monday.
Willow Brook still has the largest number of cases: 27. Nineteen of those are current student cases, and one is a current staff case. Willow Brook reported four new cases between Thursday and Friday.
Robertsville has the second-largest number of cases: 24. Twenty of those are current student cases, and one is a current staff case. Robertsville reported seven new cases between Thursday and Friday.
Jefferson has the third-largest number of cases: 19. Sixteen of those are current student cases, and two are current staff cases. Jefferson reported eight new cases between Thursday and Friday.
“At this point in time, our data supports mandating masks for students and staff at Jefferson Middle School and Robertsville Middle school starting on Monday, August 16,” Oak Ridge Schools told families in an email Friday. “When active cases and transmission decrease, we will have the option to lift this mandate and return to making the wearing of masks optional.”
Masks are optional in other Oak Ridge Schools.
Oak Ridge High School has had 10 student cases total this fiscal year, with six of those current.
Linden Elementary School has five current student cases. Woodland Elementary School has three current student cases, and Secret City Academy has two current student cases.
Students returned to school about 2.5 weeks ago, on Wednesday, July 29, although teachers and staff were in schools before then. The fiscal year began July 1.
Most of the COVID cases reported by Oak Ridge Schools have been among students, 83. Seventy-one of those are current, an increase of 20 current cases since Thursday.
Seven staff members have been infected, with four of those current. That’s an increase of two staff infections since Thursday, and an increase of one current case.
The number of cases has increased 10 times in the past 1.5 weeks, from nine on Wednesday, August 4, to 90 on Friday, August 13.
It’s not clear how students and staff were infected with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. Last year, the school system said most of the people infected as of November, at the beginning of the winter peak, had been exposed to the virus outside of school. It’s not clear if that has changed.
It’s also not clear what type of symptoms the students and staff are experiencing. That information, the outcome of individual cases, has not been reported.
Health officials have said vaccines are the best tool to fight COVID. Students 12 years old and older are eligible for vaccines. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and make an appointment for a shot here.
Besides vaccines, experts have said face masks are a tool that can be used to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID.
Health officials say the delta variant of the new coronavirus is responsible for 80 percent or more of new cases and the fourth surge of COVID in the United States. The surge in Tennessee started a month or so ago. The surge in Anderson County cases started about July 12. Medical workers across the United States have said this variant is affecting more young people, especially the unvaccinated, and they and patients and parents of young patients have repeatedly urged people to get vaccinated to avoid the worst effects of COVID-19.
The school system has a case count dashboard that is updated daily and posted on its website at COVID Information – Oak Ridge Schools (ortn.edu).
“We expect that there will be times throughout this school year where we will experience an increase in COVID being transmitted at a particular school(s), which will mean a mask mandate will be needed,” Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers said in an email to families. “Please know that this does not mean that a particular school(s) will need to wear masks for the entire year. We will monitor data and make decisions on when to mandate and when to recommend masks throughout the school year. This approach will allow us to address the current need at each building rather than making a district-wide decision that isn’t necessary.”
Borchers said an epidemiology and laboratory grant allows school nurses to test students and staff members that exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, with results available within 24 hours. Parent permission is required before testing a student for COVID, Borchers said.
“We continue to express our appreciation of the precautions our students, families, and staff members take in the interest of keeping our families healthy,” Borchers said. “Together as a community, we are working hard to ensure a safe learning environment for our staff and students. We will continue to work quickly and collaboratively with the Anderson County Department of Health in the best interest of the health and safety of our Oak Ridge Schools’ families.”
See previous story here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Most news stories on Oak Ridge Today are free, brought to you by Oak Ridge Today with help from our advertisers, contributors, and subscribers. This is a free story. Thank you to our advertisers, contributors, and subscribers. You can see what we cover here.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today!
Alternatively, you can donate to support our work here. Thank you for your support!
Copyright 2021 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.