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As School Gets Underway, Sobering Numbers

Tens of thousands of students already quarantined across the US, including 20K in Mississippi
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2021 10:05 AM CDT
Tens of Thousands of Students Are in Quarantine
Hundreds of Genesee County residents protest against a mandatory mask mandate in schools on Wednesday, outside of the Genesee County Administration Building in Flint, Mich.   (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

(Newser) – More than 20,000 students in Mississippi—about 4.5% of the state's public-school population—were quarantined over the last two weeks due to coronavirus exposures, per USA Today. Almost 6,000 students in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks, and two have died since late July, according to Mississippi state health department data released Tuesday. A total of 803 schools reported 4,521 positive cases among students just within the last week, per the Mississippi Free Press. Some context:

  • Delta's impact: Only 199 student cases of COVID-19 were reported in Mississippi at this time last year, per the Free Press. But the delta variant wasn't yet wreaking havoc in the US. It now represents about 90% of new infections among children, per USA Today.

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  • Children's hospital is full: "In the 2020 version of COVID-19, most children infected did not show symptoms that developed into serious health conditions. That's not the case today, as nationally and in Mississippi, the delta variant of COVID-19 is driving up the number of children hospitalized at Children's of Mississippi," reads a Monday release from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Children's of Mississippi, the state's only pediatric hospital, is now "full of children sick with COVID-19, including several on ventilators for life support," per the Free Press.
  • A 13-year-old's death: Eighth grader Mkayla Robinson died of COVID-19 during a hospital transfer on Saturday, hours after testing positive and eight days after returning to classes at Raleigh Junior High, where masks were optional until Aug 10. She'd been in class as of Wednesday. On Friday, Gov. Tate Reeves, who opposes mask mandates, downplayed the risk to children while misstating the number of child COVID-19 deaths in the state, reports the Free Press. Robinson's death brought the total to five.

  • Will Reeves reverse? The governor is now facing calls to reverse his opposition to a statewide mask mandate. In an open letter shared online Sunday, the governor's former pastor, Elizabeth Henry, urges him "to learn and change and better love our neighbors in thought and word and action by implementing a statewide mask mandate," noting she's "afraid" for the children. Such concerns aren't restricted to Mississippi.
  • Florida quarantines: Those 19 or younger accounted for about 20% of COVID-19 cases in Florida last week (31,700 of 151,415), per ABC News. And in Florida's Hillsborough County Public Schools, the seventh-largest school district in the country, more than 12,000 staff and students have been isolated or quarantined. As of Thursday morning, 2,134 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among students and staff in the Tampa-area district with more than 213,000 students. Masks are now required, but at least 28,000 parents sought exemptions for their children.

  • Elsewhere: More than 2,000 staffers and students in a school district in Phoenix are isolated or quarantined, per AZ Family. The same goes for nearly 1,000 students and 95 staff members in Nashville, per the Nashville Tennessean. About 750 students in Indiana's New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., almost 7% of the student body, were in quarantine as of Tuesday, along with 40 staff members, per USA Today.
  • School closures: Many other school districts across the country, including in Indiana and Kentucky, have temporarily closed due to outbreaks. That includes at least four school districts each in Texas and Georgia.
(Read more quarantine stories.)

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