An Upstate, South Carolina school district is rebuking state health leaders over quarantine guidelines for students who have been exposed to the coronavirus pandemic – criticizing these restrictive edicts as “negatively impacting the well-being of our students emotionally, socially and academically.”
The Greenville County school district’s board of trustees penned a letter (.pdf) to the board of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) last week expressing its members’ concerns over the agency’s “quarantine guidelines for close contacts.”
Those concerns also “accurate reflect the concerns of constituents we serve,” board members added.
As of this writing, SCDHEC is requiring students with a close contact to a Covid-19 positive individual to quarantine for five days (and wear a mask for five days upon their return to school). This quarantine period can be extended for a total of ten days at the discretion of local districts.
“We are confident this guidance provides the best opportunity to keep students and teachers in the classroom without increasing exposure,” SCDHEC public health director Brannon Traxler said earlier this month.
Are such regulations feasible in light of the mass exposure of broad swaths of the population to the highly transmissible – yet comparatively mild – omicron variant of Covid-19, the virus which originated in Wuhan, China in the fall of 2019?
No, they are not … at least not according to Greenville school board members.
“Along with many other schools and districts across our state, we are continuing to witness a steady increase in the number of students who need some type of social or emotional intervention, as well as a need for increased academic support,” the letter noted, adding that SCDHEC’s policies are “further compounding” these issues.
“We assert that students need to be in school to learn and excel academically, preventing further missed learning as well as developing and maintaining strong social interactions and relationships with their peers, teachers and mentors,” the Greenville board noted.
According to the board, a whopping 32,202 students in the district (or 93 percent of the 34,432 students who were quarantined for “close contact” between August 17, 2021 and January 15, 2022) never wound up testing positive for the virus.
“During the first five months of this school year, 32,202 students were unnecessarily quarantined from school,” the board wrote. “This number represents days of learning that cannot be recovered. It represents gaps in learning that, despite our best efforts, may lead to continued failures and further extensive remedial efforts.”
The Greenville board asked SCDHEC to review its data “so that revisions to the quarantine procedures can be adopted for students.”
SCDHEC’s response? Well, according to Greenville schools’ strategic communications and engagement director Whitney Hanna, the agency didn’t respond … at least not to them.
“Neither the Greenville County schools’ board of trustees nor the administration has received a direct response to the board letter that was sent to DHEC’s chair this morning,” Hanna told reporter AlvieAnn Chandler of Fox Carolina. “It appears that DHEC’s media response does not answer the board’s request in the letter.”
WANT MORE NEWS?
SCDHEC director Edward Simmer – appointed to his post last February by governor Henry McMaster – did issue a statement to Fox Carolina. According to Simmer, his agency “continually evaluates its guidance for schools and the public and makes evidence-based updates that follow the latest science.”
“If schools follow the current guidance, very few students should have to miss school due to quarantine after exposure to Covid-19,” Simmer added.
Is that true, though?
Across the state, the rash of new cases driven by the omicron variant has made exposure to Covid-19 an almost everyday occurrence for most South Carolinians. How, exactly, does that mass exposure translate into “very few students” having to miss school? Moreover, given omicron’s relative mildness compared to prior Covid-19 variants – to say nothing of the documented resilience of children in warding off coronavirus symptoms – why are we even worrying about these exposures if children aren’t symptomatic?
“We should all be smart and be safe, but we cannot allow Covid-19 fear to once again impose ‘cures’ on our society that are worse than the disease,” I wrote recently.
These quarantine guidelines strike me as precisely such a ‘cure,’ forcing more parents into no-win situations at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet due to escalating inflation from government’s costly response to the last round of lockdowns.
THE LETTER …Greenville-Letter
(Via: Greenville Schools)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Chicago Blackhawks’ lid pictured above).
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