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COVID case numbers rise in local schools

By Wes Tomlinson

For the Enquirer

In Hartselle City Schools, 21 students and one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus this past week, according to Superintendent Dr. Dee Dee Jones.

“I know that number is probably going to go up,” she said. “We are monitoring every day.”

Since school started, Morgan County spokesperson Jeremy Childers said, less than 2 percent of staff and less than 3 percent of students have tested positive. Those students and staff went into quarantine.

This past week, Decatur City Schools had 35 students and five staff members test positive.

Maintenance staff at Decatur City Schools are installing transparent desk shields on group desks and reading desks as a barrier between students at all 12 elementary schools in an effort to limit viral spread.

According to Limestone County Schools spokesperson Ashley Graves, 120 students and 15 staff members have tested positive this school year. Thirty-three students are at home with symptoms awaiting test results, and 10 staff members are in quarantine.

Judy Smith, the administrator of the Alabama Department of Public Health Northern District, said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is as deadly as earlier variants but far more transmissible.

“The numbers are rising tremendously,” said Smith. “The people most vulnerable to the disease are those not vaccinated. Some refuse to get vaccinated, and some are not eligible.”

Smith said as early as next week, ADPH will begin posting the number of COVID cases in each Alabama school on its website.

According to data released Wednesday by the Huntsville Hospital System, which includes Decatur Morgan and Athens-Limestone hospitals, 80 percent of COVID patients in the ICU are unvaccinated, and 86 percent of the non-ICU COVID patients are unvaccinated.

Decatur Morgan Hospital had 35 COVID patients Wednesday, including two on ventilators. Athens-Limestone Hospital had 11 COVID patients, including one on a ventilator.

A hospital official said the transmissibility of the Delta variant increases the importance of masks.

“If you are vaccinated, it still behooves you to protect you and your family by wearing masks,” said Tracy Doughty, president and COO of Huntsville Hospital System.

Smith encouraged all staff and eligible students to get the vaccine as soon as possible and to keep wearing masks.

The Pfizer vaccine is available for people ages 12 and older. Other vaccines are available for those 18 and older.

Over the past week, 364 Morgan County residents, 338 Limestone residents and 84 Lawrence County residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. Of 79 coronavirus samples randomly analyzed in north Alabama, 76 were the Delta variant, according to the ADPH.