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Carter County Schools delaying start of school year after increase of COVID-19 cases among kids

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Posted at 9:58 AM, Aug 03, 2021

GRAYSON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Carter County Schools are delaying the start of the 2021-2022 school year following an increase of COVID-19 cases among school-aged kids.

The district says the decision comes after a recommendation from the Carter County Health Department. The first day of school for students will now be Monday, August 16, 11 days after their scheduled start date.

"No extracurricular activities (games & practices) are permitted through August 16," says Carter County Schools in a Facebook post. "Information will be re-evaluated at the end of next week."

Despite the delay in school, the district will not mandate masks to be worn while in school buildings. The district does, however, recommend and encourage unvaccinated people to wear them.

Governor Andy Beshear was critical of the decision to not enforce masking when asked during Monday's briefing.

"Our recommendation is as clear as it can be. School systems should mandate universal masking. Should require it. That's what the CDC at the federal level says," said Beshear.

That's also what the director of the Carter County Health Department says.

"My suggestion to them was to look at a universal mask mandate and the potential to push back school for a couple of weeks to hopefully let things settle down a little bit," said Jeff Barker, Director of Public Health for Carter County.

There's no posted update to mask-wearing, but the school board did agree to Barker's second recommendation to push back the start date.

"I mean, yeah, I know they're probably doing what's best for them. You know, they don't want them to get sick, we don't either," said Lodena McGlone, a grandmother.

"Well once the numbers in Carter County started to rise, I just had a feeling that's what the board was going to do," said Willis Johnson, a grandfather.

On Tuesday, the Health Department reported another 27 positive cases of COVID-19. 13 of them in school-age kids.

"As of right now, there's 58 positive kids in the county who have tested positive. There's numerous kids in quarantine," said Barker. "Some sports teams, youth camps, returning from youth camps and stuff like that.

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The county is solidly back in the red zone, with an incidence rate of 59.7 per 100,000 as of Tuesday's report.

With the district's decision to push back the start of school, all extra-curricular activities are suspended for now.

"He (grandson) likes his football, so can't practice, or anything, so I'd say he's a little discouraged," said Johnson.

The roller coaster ride this past school year is among the reasons Johnson says his grandsons got the COVID-19 vaccine.

But the health department says only a small percentage of eligible students have received the shot. Only 31.9% of the county's population is fully vaccinated according to the CDC.

Barker saw weeks of declining vaccines administered but says the rise of the Delta variant may encourage more to get vaccinated.

"The weeks prior, we were down to 6, 8, 10 people a week. Last week we were up to 55 folks. So hopefully we'll see an increase this week"

The next vaccine clinic at the health department is on Friday, and walk-ups will not be turned away.

LEX 18 did reach out to the schools' superintendent's office, but the person we spoke to on the phone said he was not in today.

According to state data, Carter County is one of multiple Kentucky counties with high transmission levels of COVID-19. There have been 2,616 cases in the county since the start of the pandemic and 37 people have died from the virus. The county's positivity rate is 16.72%.