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Three Charlotte-Area Districts That Opened With Masks Optional Have More Than 1 In 10 Students Quarantined

Union County Public Schools students wore college colors Friday.
UCPS Facebook page
Union County Public Schools students wore college colors Friday.

Union County Public Schools, the largest district in North Carolina that’s not requiring masks inside schools, now has more than 10% of its students quarantined. Iredell-Statesville and Catawba County Schools, which adopted mask mandates Tuesday, are in the same situation.

A Union County update posted Friday says 5,208 students are in quarantine, out of about 40,000 total. During the past week, 337 students tested positive for COVID-19.

The latest report shows 202 Union County employees are quarantined and 30 staff tested positive for COVID-19.

UCPS dashboard for the week ending Sept. 3.
UCPS dashboard for the week ending Sept. 3.

North Carolina’s school safety rules require that unvaccinated students be quarantined after exposure if masks aren’t consistently used. With universal masking they can stay in classrooms unless they develop symptoms.

The quarantine rules and the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant have led all but nine North Carolina school districts to adopt mask mandates, some as recently as this week.

Iredell-Statesville Schools, which opened last week with masks optional, announced Friday that it has temporarily closed a sixth school, Scotts Elementary, because of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Jeff James told the school board a mask mandate was the only thing that would avert the need to take the whole district into virtual learning. He closed five schools Thursday.

Friday's COVID-19 update for ISS, which has about 20,000 students, says 267 students tested positive between Aug. 27 and Thursday. Almost 2,900, or 14% of all students, are quarantined. Most of those are attributed to exposure at school.

ISS also reports 26 employees testing positive, 37 quarantined because of exposure and 43 isolated for symptoms.

The Catawba County School board also approved a mask mandate Tuesday. Its Friday report shows just over 12% of its 15,000 students are quarantined.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.