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WATAUGA — Since the first day of school on Aug. 16, Watauga County Schools nurses have investigated 1,127 reports of COVID-19 symptoms with students and staff.

In an email to parents on Sept. 12, WCS superintendent Scott Elliott said of the 1,127 reports, 83 students and 22 staff members have tested positive. Elliott said that school nurses believe that four of those 83 student cases were from secondary transmission at school. The other 79 were from outside of school activities or had no known source, Elliott said.

“We continue to see an elevated number of cases among students and staff members due to the contagiousness of the Delta variant of COVID-19,” Elliott said in his email. “We are doing everything possible to keep students healthy and keep our schools open.”

The school system has hired two additional nurses this year so that every school has a nurse present every day. WCS is also hiring two new nurse assistants to assist the registered nurses.

Elliott stated the school system is hiring six full time substitute teachers to cover classes when teachers are sick or have to quarantine.

“We continue to desperately need bus drivers and cafeteria workers,” Elliott said.

If anyone is interested in those positions, Elliott said they can contact a school principal. Job information can also be found at www.wataugaschools.org.

Elliott also reminded parents of the quarantine requirements in place. The quarantine and isolation rules are established by state health officials and enforced by our local health department.

Anyone who is in close contact — 15 minutes cumulative over 24 hours — to a COVID-19 positive person is considered a close contact and may have to quarantine. Quarantines can be prevented if the close contact is vaccinated or if everyone involved was wearing a mask consistently and correctly.

Elliott said in his email the 14 day quarantine period can be reduced to seven days if the close contact tests negative and has no symptoms. So far this school year, 574 students have been considered close contacts to a COVID-19 positive person either in or out of school. Of those close contacts, 299 had to quarantine.

“That means 275 students were able to stay in school and did not have to be quarantined due to the benefits of proper masking, vaccines or the presence of antibodies,” Elliott said.

WCS is also holding a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for students and parents on Sept. 17 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the high school.

“We continue to encourage all families to consult with your medical providers and determine if vaccines are right for you,” Elliott said.

“This is the best way to prevent severe illness and quarantines. Please consider getting a vaccine if you have not done so already.”

The clinic will be hosted by WCS school nurses, Boone Drug and Samaritan’s Purse. Students and parents can sign up for the clinic at tinyurl.com/uwrfnt7v.

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