SCEA head: Current COVID-19 numbers in S.C. schools making some teachers anxious

DHEC said, as of Monday, there were 158 cases among teachers and students

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — As several school districts get ready to start the new year Tuesday, some teachers are growing more concerned about the presence of COVID-19 in the classroom.

However, on top of all the other factors that go into preparing for a new year, South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East says more teachers are worrying about one more thing: hearing about a COVID-19 case in their schools.

“So you’d get a letter saying ‘we just want to notify you that someone at your school is positive’, immediate panic sets in, like ‘oh my gosh, was I around that person, did I come in contact, should I quarantine?’ So, I think we’re going to have a lot more anxiety as more of those letters go out, because it’s going to happen,” said Sherry East, the President of the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA).

DHEC announced on Friday that there were 89 positive tests among students, and 69 among staff members. The public health agency is set to release an update to these numbers Tuesday.

East told ABC Columbia many teachers support how their districts are trying to keep them and their students safe, but also said those safety plans only go so far.

“You can’t keep the kid in the plexiglass all day long, or the teacher. You still have the bus riders, you still have the cafeteria, you still have walking down the hall, so there’s a lot of places for the germ to interact other than sitting at the desk,” East said.

In the last few weeks, schools in Georgia and Tennessee had to revert back to virtual learning due to large clusters of students testing positive.

Even though some districts are taking a week-by-week approach to see how the virus spreads, East says teachers should try to avoid the noise and focus on their students.

“Don’t work yourself into a panic attack, and don’t work yourself out of the profession,” East said. 

Cardinal Newman School, a Catholic high school in Columbia, has at least one positive COVID-19 case among students, according to DHEC.

Rob Loia, the Principal of Cardinal Newman, told ABC Columbia that a student who tests positive will go into isolation immediately, and contact tracing will start. Loia said the school keeps in constant contact with DHEC, sends communication to parents and staff concerning each positive case, and staff goes back and disinfects areas where the student had been in the last 24 hours (on top of their regular disinfection routines).

If there is a cluster of cases at Cardinal Newman, Loia said those students would learn asynchronously while they are in isolation, but if a cluster of teachers were diagnosed, then they would evaluate having in-person classes.

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