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Franklin County working with health director to stop community spread

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:39 PM EDT
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ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ) - Franklin County Public Schools continues to deal with rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19. Last week more than 600 students had been sent home to quarantine, that number close to doubling only weeks into the school year.

School representatives tell WDBJ7 as of Wednesday afternoon, 949 students and counting have been exposed.

Nancy Bell, a spokesperson with the West Piedmont Health District, says what’s unique about the schools compared to others is their leniency on a mask policy that over 20 percent of the school community filed to be exempt from.

“You could exempt your child for religious reasons and medical reasons, but there wasn’t any justification required, and I think while they were trying to be user-friendly to the parents and the children, what happened was, the COVID was allowed to spread,” says Bell of the universal mask policy for students, staff, and visitors.

Bell explains contact tracers and epidemiologists have concluded many people are catching the virus outside school, but passing it to others in the classroom.

With the outbreak already affecting community events and the area’s medical staffing, Bell says it’s important for everyone to work together to end this crisis.

Organizers announced Wednesday afternoon the Franklin County Agricultural Fair will be postponed due to rising cases.

25 healthcare providers in the district have tested positive to the virus or have been quarantined due to exposure.

Meanwhile, the health director has been working with the school’s administration to come up with a solution.

The health department does not have the authority to close the schools, but can make recommendations to mitigate spread.

“His concern with recommending that they shut the schools down would be that the kids who go home for ten days get into all kinds of stuff all day long and here we go again.”

Dave Terry, Director of Business and Finance for Franklin County Public Schools, says they’re planning to stay open, continuing to practice social distancing and other CDC guidelines.

“This is almost worse than the first wave last year, because we’re dealing with breakthrough infections and some people haven’t gotten their second vaccination, and the unvaccinated are passing around a variant that’s getting very vicious and easy to catch,” says Bell. “Watch out for yourself and watch out for your fellow man because we’re at a very critical time and people are dying.”

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