UCS issues temporary mask mandate, suspends games for one week

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, Union County Board of Education moved to heighten virus precautions in the classroom with a mask mandate.

Students returned to class today, January 5, from winter break. Previously, the school encouraged masks but didn’t require face coverings for students. Now all students and teachers must wear a mask except for eating or drinking. Children with medical excuses will receive appropriate accommodations, such as a face shield.

Students exposed to COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days, and those not following the COVID-19 protocols will be sent home. The school enhanced social distancing and meal mitigations when possible.

Additionally, the nine-week requirement for online learning was suspended until case numbers go back down. If a parent or guardian doesn’t feel comfortable sending their child to school, they can participate in online learning until a parent deems it safe. Parents and guardians against the mask policy were asked to keep their child at home until the old policies are reinstated.

The data following the black vertical line depicts the recent rise in quarantines and confirmed COVID-19 cases in the school. The orange dotted line = student quarantines. The red line = student positives. The black dotted line = staff quarantine. The black line = staff positives.

The board decided to cancel athletic events for the week of January 4 to 9. Practices will still take place.  Each week the athletic department will decide the game schedule and cancellations.  Once games resume, attendance will be limited with a mask requirement in place for fans. The school’s looking into livestreaming events.

Board members agreed that face-to-face instruction must continue until it’s no longer feasible for the system. The current UCS update placed 30 staff in quarantine or positive for COVID-19.  If the situation doesn’t improve, the district could move to online-only learning.

Newest board member and Union General Hospital Chief Nursing Officer stated that she views schools as a controlled environment. By keeping children in schools, it’s easier to manage their environments and contact trace.

Several schools districts in the Pioneer RESA opted to go online only for the foreseeable future, including Rabun, Banks, Gainesville, Hall Hart, Lumpkin, Madison, and White. Pickens County announced its decision to close for another week yesterday.

Union County discussed canceling games with schools that were online only but allowing athletic activities, citing that if the district is too sick to attend in-person classes, then should they be traveling to play sports.

2 positive students and 4 staff COVID-19 cases at UCS

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Union County Schools (UCS) released coronavirus, COVID-19 numbers on Friday, August 14. Currently, two students and four staff members have positive cases.

27 students and 17 staff members are currently under quarantine for possible exposure.

Students and faculty return to in-person instruction on August 17, and the students and faculty under quarantine or with positive cases won’t be in attendance. According to school policy, only those who test negative for COVID-19 can attend in-person class.

According to the school’s policy, anyone who tests positive can’t return for “at least 10 days following the onset of COVID-19 symptoms or receiving a positive test result AND be fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication AND have an improvement in respiratory symptoms.”

Quarantined individuals must stay home for at least 14 days even if symptom-free. If they develop symptoms, the quarantine may be extended from symptoms onset. Also, students with a confirmed diagnosis in the home will be quarantined an additional 14-days from when the family’s quarantine time ends.

If hospitalized or severely immunocompromised from the virus, students must stay home “at least 20 days since symptoms first appeared AND be fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications AND have an improvement in respiratory symptoms.”

While quarantining from home, students can participate in the online learning program.

UCS will be providing a weekly COVID-19 update concerning positive cases and possible exposures. These updates aren’t meant to alarm but provide public information.

Face masks are highly recommended for all students and will be available to students and faculty on campus. Students will be required to wear face masks during class changes, school nurse visits, and safety drills.

Each week the school buildings will be deep-cleaned over a three day period.

To review UCS’s reopening plan, follow the link, here.

As for closure, UCS is following Georgia’s Department of Education (GaDOE) District Decision Tree.

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