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DPH rejects Bulloch Schools’ request for change of state quarantine policy
Local board to reconsider 6:30 p.m. Thursday
W Charles Wilson
Superintendent Charles Wilson

In a letter Monday, the chief of Georgia’s Department of Public Health rejected Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson’s request that the DPH change its statewide quarantine guidance in regard to schools.

That guidance and Bulloch County’s application of it has resulted in more than 1,000 of  the local school system’s students, teachers and staff members being sent home on 14-day precautionary quarantines since school started Aug. 17. After an earlier warning from the DPH, followed by Wilson’s request and the state’s rejection of it, the Bulloch County Board of Education, when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday is slated to reconsider its Oct. 8 decision, which would have prevented students from being quarantined if they were wearing protective masks and showed no symptoms when found to be in “close contact” with someone with the novel coronavirus.


DPH ‘steadfast’

The Georgia Department of Public Health "remains steadfast," in its statewide guidance for how those directly exposed to COVID-19 are quarantined, DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in her Oct. 19 letter to Wilson.

In an Oct. 15 letter to Toomey, Wilson had requested that the department "immediately revise" and "equally and appropriately" enforce its standing administrative order, particularly for all schools across the state. Toomey's correspondence was emailed to Wilson by Jennifer Dalton, the DPH's legal counsel.

"Currently, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that any close contacts of infected individuals quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether or not they were wearing a mask at the time of the encounter," Toomey wrote. "We will continue to follow those guidelines until the CDC recommends a different approach."

A series of actions began with the Bulloch County Board of Education’s 8-0 vote on Oct. 8 to allow healthy students to remain in school if they were wearing a mask at the time of direct exposure to a COVID-19 case and would continue to wear a mask. Previously quarantined students were also to be allowed to return to school. The motion was stated to be effective immediately.

But Wilson suspended further implementation of the board action Oct. 14 after correspondence from Toomey to local school board Chairman Mike Sparks.

In her Oct. 13 letter, Toomey stated that the Bulloch County Schools action was “out of compliance” with CDC guidance  and that failure to comply with the Georgia Department of Public Health administrative order would constitute a misdemeanor violation of state law.


Agenda has ‘rescind’

The reconsideration appears on Thursday’s Board of Education agenda as “Rescind Oct. 8, 2020 Quarantine Requirement Elimination Decision.”

The meeting, otherwise a regularly scheduled work session, will be held at 6:30 p.m., in the cafetorium of the Bulloch County Schools central office complex, 150 Williams Road in Statesboro. The meeting space is open to the public. School system officials ask that everyone who attends maintain social distance in the interest of public health.

Meetings can also be viewed via livestreaming on the Bulloch County Schools district Facebook page or later on the school system website.


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