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Omicron leads to changes as students return from holiday break

Published: Jan. 2, 2022 at 2:43 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County set another record Sunday for the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day.

It comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, with infections rising among adults and children alike.

It’s leading to changes as students prepare to go back to school this week.

The Shelby County Health Department confirmed more than 3,300 new cases, bringing the total number of active cases to more than 18,000.

There are more than 3,600 active cases among Shelby County children.

Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease expert, says children remain vulnerable.

“We know that this is going to increase the number of cases among those who are not vaccinated,” said Jain. “The vaccination rate is lower [among children], and those younger than five years old, we still don’t have vaccinations approved for them yet.”

The COVID-19 surge has already forced the Germantown Municipal School District to bring back its mask mandate when students return from the holiday break Monday.

The school board said in a statement:

“After careful consideration of current circumstances, including uncertainties regarding the new Omicron variant of COVID-19… and GMSD’s desire to maintain in-person instruction and learning, GMSD is returning to a mask requirement during normal school hours on January 3, 2022, subject to review during the Germantown Board of Education’s work session on January 19.”

Shelby County Schools always maintained its mask requirement, even in the face of threats from state leaders.

SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray highlighted a state report showing SCS and Metro Nashville Schools had the lowest cumulative case rates in the state.

In a new year message to SCS staff and families, Ray said, “As we kick off the new semester, we’re urging our staff, students and families to stay the course for safety.”

Ray also added that starting Monday, January 17, weekly COVID-19 testing would be offered at each school and at the board of education office.

Shelby County health officials say Omicron’s rapid rise among children is a reason for everyone to do their part to limit the spread.

“So that’s just another motivating factor for the rest of the folks in our community to do the right thing, get vaccinated, mask up and try to social distance as much as possible,” said Dr. Michelle Taylor, director of the Shelby County Health Department.

Data from the Tennessee Department of Health showed 43 children were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Tennessee.

This includes five who were in the intensive care unit and two on ventilators.

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