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Calhoun County Schools sees COVID outbreak

MT. ZION — Calhoun County Schools is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak with 37 active cases in the county as of Monday’s Department of Health and Human Resources update.

Pleasant Hill Elementary and Calhoun Middle High School have been affected.

Superintendent Kelli Whytsell reported 13 students and eight staff members were positive as of Tuesday morning, including a teacher who was fully vaccinated.

The teacher in question had received her two vaccine doses earlier this year and had surpassed the two-week waiting period following her second dose. Whytsell said a neighboring county is experiencing the same situation. The high school went to remote learning May 4 due to the number of staff members exposed.

“You can’t double up classes and I have no way to staff the school,” Whytsell said.

Pleasant Hill Elementary went to remote learning Monday.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Heath Department deems the spike in cases an outbreak and Whytsell said some of the cases are connected. Staff is working with the appropriate medical professionals to conduct contact tracing.

“Our nurse and Minnie Hamilton Health System have just been so busy doing the contact tracing that they honestly have not been able to get the ‘where.’ Honestly that doesn’t really concern us, we’re worried about the effect it’s going to have on our students, families and communities. We’re trying to stop it,” Whytsell said.

Testing has been taking place at the schools and staff members will undergo a rapid test today.

With the rapid increase of COVID cases, Whytsell said students are becoming more interested in getting vaccinated.

“Some of our kids have had one shot and we have signups for the 12-15 age group. It really seems to to have more students interested now than they were before,” she said. “We really had not had a significant problem in the county with COVID until this point. It was easier to think ‘I don’t need to do this’ or ‘it’s not here.’ This has kind of opened some eyes for some people that yes, it is (here) and everybody needs to do their part to stop this.”

Gilmer County is also seeing an increase in number with a reported 56 active cases. Whytsell said some of those positive cases may have come into Calhoun County through the Calhoun/Gilmer Career Center.

Whytsell said she hopes students will be able to return back to in-person learning after this week.

“The help and support we’ve had has been tremendous. Any time we have needed students tested, they have set up quick, accurate testing. One of the providers worked all weekend with our school nurse to do contact tracing,” Whytsell said. “It’s unheard of, on a Mother’s Day weekend, she gave up her whole weekend so we could get people notified as quickly as possible so we are not potentially exposing anybody else.”

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