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Morgan County: COVID-19 cases, quarantines rise in three school systems

By Cassie Kuhn

For the Enquirer

Active cases of COVID-19 reached a new high for Morgan County Schools students and employees in data reported Oct. 12, three days after the Alabama Department of Public Health elevated the county’s risk level from green for “low risk,” to red for “very high risk.”

In total, 25 students and employees have recently tested positive for COVID-19.

“This is the highest number of positive cases we’ve had,” spokeswoman Lisa Screws said, “but we continue to base our instruction decisions on what’s happening at individual schools. The county is such a wide area, what’s happening in one spot doesn’t usually have any bearing on other locations.”

The 25 individuals who recently tested positive for COVID-19 include 13 on-campus students, nine on-campus employees and three off-campus or remote individuals. Six of the cases, including all three remote or off-campus cases, are from Danville High; four cases are from Danville Middle; 11 are from Danville-Neel Elementary; one is from Falkville High; two are from Priceville High; and one is from West Morgan Middle.

Screws said administrators are monitoring COVID-19 data within the district daily. The district posts the number of active cases to its website at morgank12.org but declines to disclose the number of students and employees who are in quarantine.

Morgan schools were closed Oct. 12-13 for fall break. The system’s students learn remotely on Wednesdays, as they have been since school started in August. As a result, students did not return to in-person instruction until Thursday, with schools closed to students for five days before reopening.

Screws said it’s “impossible to say” if plans for any schools would be altered later in the week because of the rise in number of positive cases in the district.

“We’re taking it day by day,” she said.

Hartselle City Schools

The number of students and employees in quarantine is up recently in Hartselle City Schools, though the number of positive cases has held steady for about a week. As of Oct. 12, Superintendent Dee Dee Jones said there were 79 individuals in quarantine and six active cases of COVID-19 in the district. This is up from 40 quarantines and five active cases Wednesday, 17 quarantines and four positive cases Sept. 28 and 11 quarantines and no active cases Sept. 21.

The students and employees in quarantine come from every school in the district, and three central office employees also were in quarantine. The highest number of quarantines comes from Crestline Elementary, where there 32 students and one staff member were reported in quarantine. There are two positive cases of the virus at Hartselle High and one each at Barkley Bridge Elementary, Crestline Elementary, F.E. Burleson Elementary and the central office.

The overall numbers of quarantines and positive cases in Hartselle City Schools remain lower than they were at the start of the school year when, at times, more than 200 students and employees were in quarantine because of illness or exposure to COVID-19.

Decatur City Schools

The number of quarantines in Decatur City Schools climbed to 449 as of Friday, including 410 students and 39 employees. There were 32 active cases of COVID-19 in the district as well, with 28 students and four employees.

One employee each at Decatur High, Austin Junior High, Austinville Elementary and Julian Harris Elementary recently tested positive for the virus. For students, there were five cases at Austin High, nine at Decatur High, three at Decatur Middle, three at Austin Middle, four at Austin Junior High and one each at Eastwood Elementary, Julian Harris Elementary, West Decatur Elementary and Walter Jackson Elementary.

Schools were closed all week for fall break and a three-day “trial run” for virtual learning. Employees reported to school Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, while students learned remotely. Schools were slated to reopen for in-person instruction Oct. 19.

“Spike” in cases

As of Oct. 12, Decatur Morgan Hospital had 22 confirmed COVID-19 inpatient and 10 presumed positive, including seven in intensive care and six on ventilators, President Kelli Powers said Monday at the weekly city/county briefing on the virus.

“We have seen a spike. We went up to as much as 24 (confirmed) late last week and back down to 22 now, but as … we saw in the data, we are seeing an increase in people with COVID-19 from Morgan County,” she said.

Powers said the intensive care unit has been full at Decatur Morgan Hospital because in addition to the seven COVID-19 patients who are in intensive care, others are sick with different illnesses after delaying care because of the pandemic.

“We really need the community to go and see your doctor, get your tests done early because you do not want to delay care and get sick to where you can’t recover,” Powers said.

Powers said nine hospital employees are quarantining because of testing positive for COVID-19, in addition to 14 employees who are self-monitoring.