Mid-South schools return to virtual learning due to COVID-19

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:45 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Some Mid-South schools are moving classes online.

It’s an effect and for some, an expected effect, of the highly contagious omicron strain.

There were 25 COVID-19 patients at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital Tuesday. That is six less than Monday. Doctors within Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare said they hope cases are starting to stabilize.

Dr. Sandy Arnold, chief of pediatrics infectious disease at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, said the network is starting to see fewer COVID-19 positive presenting pediatric patients, but she said it’s too early to tell if it’s a trend.

Doctors have stopped short of saying the return of school is contributing to any current or previous case surges during the omicron surge. Now, there are more than 6,000 active pediatric cases in Shelby County.

Schools across the Mid-South are making the decision, one week after the return of classes, to go virtual.

Monday, Collierville Schools announced Collierville High School will continue remotely for the rest of the week.

In a remote learning waiver request to the state, the district said 14 percent of students and 29 percent of staff have been infected with COVID-19 or are close contact to someone who is. The district said the transmission led to significant absenteeism among staff, leaving the district unable to effectively and safely cover classes.

Schools in Shelby County returned from winter break January 3.

“It’s hard to say it’s definitively due to schools,” Arnold said. “I think the number of COVID-19 cases was raging before the kids went back to school.”

In Shelby County, more than 400 new pediatric cases were reported Tuesday. Overall, the county added another 1,345 cases to the tally.

Arnold said being in class is important for kids and schools have proven it can be done safely.

“Schools have been following protocols for a long time,” Arnold said. “Even in the early days of the pandemic, schools that went back in person were able to show us children can safely attend school if we do the right things, if we have them wear masks, if we keep them distanced as much as possible.”

The Collierville School Board decided not to mandate masks before the end of winter break, but the district still encourages them during school for students and staff.

In Eastern Arkansas, school districts in Lee County and Helena-West Helena have also switched to remote learning due to high community transmission. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said 50 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state so far this month.

“As compared to 41 [COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations] last month in total,” Hutchinson said. “Of course we are only on the 11th day of this month.”

Hutchinson said schools should not close.

Arnold said the best way to keep kids in class is by following COVID-19 safety protocols and getting vaccinated. Those five years old and older are eligible to be vaccinated.

“Please [get the vaccine],” Arnold said. “Two shots, three shots if you’re eligible. It’s really going to help things.”

Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi keep track of COVID-19 in schools through the states’ departments of education.

Tuesday, Arkansas said the close contacts of infected students and staff do not have to be reported to the health department to help decrease the amount of time staff spends reporting COVID-19 numbers.

You can find a vaccination nearest you here.

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