There have been more than 100 COVID-19 cases among students and staff members this school year, with most reporting mild symptoms, and a total of four staff hospitalizations reported since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oak Ridge Schools said Monday.
There have been no student or staff fatalities since the pandemic began, the school system said.
Monday morning, there were more than 200 students who were restricted from attending school. There were 109 cases of COVID among students and staff members on Monday evening, mostly among students. The largest number of COVID-19 cases is now at Robertsville Middle School. Until Friday, it had been at Willow Brook Elementary School.
Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers said the source of exposure to COVID-19 varies.
“A high percentage of students are unable to identify the source of exposure, while others feel the source was a family member, family gathering, or friend,” Borchers said in a response to questions Monday.
The majority of students and staff have reported having mild symptoms that resemble a common cold or mild flu, Borchers said.
In general, children seem to have been less seriously affected by COVID, with relatively few deaths, for example. But health officials and parents have continued to raise concerns about the children that have been affected and about hospital capacity as hospitals fill up. They have also pointed out that children can still transmit the coronavirus that causes COVID to more vulnerable people.
In Oak Ridge Schools, one staff member was hospitalized for a few days this year because her condition advanced to COVID-19 pneumonia, Borchers said. The staff member is out of the hospital but has not yet returned to work.
The school system knows of three staff members that were hospitalized during the pandemic last year. It is not aware of any students needing to go to the hospital last year or this year, Borchers said.
COVID-19 can result in a range of symptoms. Some people don’t have any symptoms or have a mild illness, some have a moderate or serious illness, and some require hospitalization or die. About 2.5 percent of cases reported in Anderson County have resulted in hospitalization, and about 2 percent have resulted in death. Some cases also result in long-term symptoms, sometimes referred to as “long COVID.” Experts haven’t determined why the disease affects people differently.
COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person either through respiratory droplets or aerosol transmission, leading to various measures to reduce the spread, including face masks, physical distancing, and proper ventilation. Health officials also try to track the close contacts of infected people, and they urge vaccinations to try to prevent the worst effects of COVID.
Borchers said it is difficult to provide an exact number of students and staff who have been in quarantine or who are in quarantine due to COVID-19 because single students can be identified as a close contact of multiple students.
“Students restricted from attending school currently exceeds 200 students,” Borchers said Monday morning.
He said students who show symptoms of COVID-19 are sent home, and they can be tested with the permission of parents or guardians.
Borchers said the school system doesn’t have a specific number it uses as a threshold for requiring face masks, but it is requiring masks at individual locations “if the number of positive COVID-19 cases are rising at a significant rate and if evidence supports that students are potentially being exposed while at school.”
Robertsville Middle School had 32 student cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 24 of those current, and one current staff case. The number of cases has continued to climb there. A new student case was reported Tuesday morning, and the case count is up by 10 since Friday.
The number of cases has not increased at Willow Brook Elementary School, which had the first outbreak, since Friday. The number of cases there remains at 27. Twelve of those are current student cases, and one is a current staff case.
Through Tuesday morning, Jefferson Middle School had reported four new cases of COVID-19 since Friday. On Monday, the school reported 20 student cases, with 15 of those current, and two current staff cases. The school reported one more student case on Tuesday.
Face masks are now required at those three schools: Jefferson, Robertsville, and Willow Brook. Masks are optional in other Oak Ridge Schools.
Oak Ridge High School has had 12 student cases total this fiscal year, with five of those current. There are two current staff cases.
Linden Elementary School has eight current student cases, up three since Friday. Woodland Elementary School has three current student cases, and Secret City Academy has two current student cases.
Students returned to school about three 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, 100. Sixty-nine of those were current Monday evening, an increase of 17 current cases between Friday and Monday.
Nine staff members have been infected, with five of those current Tuesday morning.
The number of cases has increased by 100 in less than two weeks, from nine on Wednesday, August 4, to 109 on Monday, August 16.
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 more transmissible 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).
The pandemic began in Tennessee in March 2020.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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