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Rising number of cases at Ocean Springs schools causing concern for parents, district officials

More than 200 students have tested positive since the start of school.
As of Aug. 15, nearly 200 students and over two dozen employees throughout the district had...
As of Aug. 15, nearly 200 students and over two dozen employees throughout the district had tested positive since the start of the school year.(WLOX)
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 7:53 AM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - An increasing number of students are testing positive for COVID in Ocean Springs, leaving parents and district officials concerned.

As of Aug. 15, nearly 200 students and over two dozen employees throughout the district have tested positive since the start of the school year. More than 100 of those cases were reported just last week. With more students testing positive this week, that number is continuing to rise.

The most recent data from the State Health Department, which is through Aug. 13, reports 83 students at Ocean Springs High, 58 at Ocean Springs Upper, and 31 at Ocean Springs Middle. Of the schools that reported to MSDH, those three Ocean Springs schools had the highest number of positive cases in Jackson County as of last Friday.

“We are really in the midst of what we believe to be the fourth wave of COVID,” said Superintendent Dr. Bonita Coleman.

The rising number of COVID cases has parents throughout the district worried. Adrienne Flowers is the mom of two children who attend school in Ocean Springs, one of whom has special needs.

”My concern is that we are at the beginning of the upturn,” she said. “We are at the beginning of that curve and it’s going to get steeper and higher. School’s only been in session for - what, ten days in Ocean Springs? - and very quickly we have seen an increase in the number of cases.”

Despite the high number of positive cases being reported, no schools in Ocean Springs reported having any students quarantine.

Currently, the district’s COVID policy does not requiring students to quarantine if they have had close contact with someone who tested positive unless they are symptomatic. It’s a departure from what the CDC recommends.

The CDC recommends advises all close contacts who have not been fully vaccinated to quarantine at home for up to 10 days after exposure if the person has had a negative test and no symptoms. Fully vaccinated close contacts do not need to quarantine if they have a negative test and no symptoms.

”I think they’re doing the best they can to a degree, but their policies could be more in line with the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health,” said Flowers. “I think that would make me and a lot of other parents feel better about having their kids attend school in person.”

For schools that require masks, which Ocean Springs School District does at all of its schools, the CDC defines close contact as being within three feet of someone who has tested positive for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. That would include, for example, three individual five-minute exposures totaling 15 minutes.

The surging case count is now pushing district leaders to implement more safety protocols at certain schools.

”We are going to restrict visitors. We are also going to put in additional cleaning protocols,” said Coleman. “We have already done that in all of our buildings, including places like the band hall or other high traffic areas. We are also going to begin to not allow our students to travel as much as they have in the past. Some of our campuses will not be able to eat in the common cafeteria. They will have do grab-and-go back to the classrooms.”

These stricter safety procedures won’t be at every school, said the superintendent, and will instead focus on those that have a higher number of positive cases.

“As buildings have progressed, we have three of them that Monday will have to put in additional protocols,” she said. “So we are going to continue to use very targeted measures instead of a ‘one size fits all’ because not all buildings are progressing at the same rate.”

The schools that will see additional safety protocols implemented next week will be announced by Friday.

To see the number of positive cases, as well as the safety protocols for OSSD, visit the district’s Health Portals site.

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