On Thursday, Bulloch County Schools raised their COVID-19 precaution status from the “No to Moderately High Spread” bracket to “High Spread.” On Friday night, the school system reported more new cases for the week of Aug. 8-14 – 236 among students and staff – than any week previously since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Hayley Greene, public relations director for the district, said in an email: The report includes “all students and employees regardless of where the case or close contact occurred. Not all cases and close contacts were on campus.”
The High Spread designation means new or enhanced precautions, including “more strongly” encouraging masks and social distancing and increasing the frequency of sanitizing and disinfecting schools, according to a release from the schools system on Friday.
“It had been our hope to not have to disrupt school operations as we had planned but circumstances have become such that we do need to temporarily adjust," Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson said in the release.
The 236 new cases last week does not include new numbers from Southeast Bulloch High School, which had not reported its cases as of Friday evening. Statesboro High reported the most cases with 50, while Portal Middle High and Stilson Elementary reported the fewest cases with two each.
Also, the schools system reported 2,320 “close contacts” among students and staff, which means they have come in contact with someone who has COVID while at school or in the community.
Langston Chapel Middle School had the most close contacts with 712, according to the weekly report, while Statesboro High had 485. Portal Middle High reported the fewest close contacts with 14. Stilson Elementary had the next fewest with 16.
Last week, the district changed its infectious disease protocols that makes quarantining optional for students and school employees who do not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 but come into contact with a confirmed case at school.
“If the point of exposure occurred at school, employees and students no longer have to quarantine, whether they are vaccinated or not, as long as they remain asymptomatic,” according to a schools system release last Wednesday.
“These updated protocols give families back their ability to make responsible personal health choices in relation to their school environment,” Wilson said last week.
The full weekly report that will include numbers from Southeast Bulloch High School is expected to be updated Monday.
East Georgia Regional Medical Center continues to see increasing numbers of COVID patients needing to be hospitalized. Ted Wynn, Bulloch’s Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency director, said 54 COVID patients were hospitalized on Saturday at East Georgia, including 13 on ventilators, an increase of three since Friday and up 21 patients since Aug. 5. On July 7, the hospital only had two COVID patients.
As cases rise at rapid rates, Dr. Alan Scott, chief of staff and director of Emergency Services at East Georgia Regional Medical Center, believes more people getting a vaccine is still the best way to stop the spread of the virus.
“We are begging those unvaccinated to please protect yourself with the vaccine and help your neighbors and your community by being part of the solution. Please do your part.,” he said. “I personally feel like I am watching so many people and their loved ones drown because of one unfortunate choice – no life preserver. A COVID vaccination is truly your life preserver.
“We strongly urge anyone 12 and older to get vaccinated. The sooner we are all vaccinated the sooner we can put this behind us all.”
Vaccines are readily available at area pharmacies, doctors’ offices, East Georgia Regional Medical Center and the Bulloch County Health Department.