Safer at Home order extended

Some local schools close temporarily

Guidelines for counties considered High Risk. Visit adph.org for full information. -Alabama Department of Public Health

Guidelines for counties considered High Risk. Visit adph.org for full information. -Alabama Department of Public Health

To curb the increase in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Kay Ivey recently extended the Safer at Home order. The most recent order went into effect Nov. 8, and is set to expire Friday, Dec. 11, at 5 p.m. Cases have begun to increase both locally and statewide.

By Nov. 16, the state saw an uptick in the weekly average of cases. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, those were up from the previous week’s average of 1,386 cases to the current average of 2,053 cases with 81 deaths reported on Wednesday, Nov. 11, the state’s highest daily death total thus far.

Blount County is one of 15 counties listed in the orange, “High Risk” category on ADPH’s Risk Indicator map. Risk categories are determined by taking calculations for each county’s chance of COVID-19 community spread based on the number of new cases each day.

Blount County Schools and Oneonta City Schools have implemented closures in recent weeks due to an increase in positive cases, as well as a high number of students and staff in quarantine. During the school closures, in-person learning students resumed virtual, at-home learning. The decision to return to remote learning temporarily was made after careful consideration and discussion.

Lauren Wilson, Oneonta City Schools assistant superintendent said, “The best teaching and learning scenario is always going to be face-to-face instruction. However, there comes a time when you have to balance the safety of the students and the well-being of the students and staff with that quality learning environment. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in positive COVID cases that has also significantly increased the number of students and staff that are required to quarantine.

“Because of this increase, we felt it was in the best interest of our students and staff members to move to remote learning through the Thanksgiving holidays. This will give us an opportunity to deep clean the building and hopefully slow the spread that we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. Thankfully, we are a one-to-one district in terms of technology, so each of our students has a Chromebook to use at home, and teachers will be instructing remotely using various methods, such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Schoology.”

Oneonta City Schools’ traditional learning students will resume in class instruction on Tuesday, Dec. 1. Hayden High and Middle schools, Susan Moore High School, Blountsville Elementary, and J.B. Pennington High School recently transitioned to remote learning as well. They will also resume in class instruction on Dec.1.Other schools in the Blount County system that have faced closures this fall are Locust Fork High and Elementary, Susan Moore Elementary, Southeastern, and Cleveland High and Elementary.

With the holidays just around the corner, ADPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people limit their traveling, avoiding it altogether if possible. Social distancing of six feet or more is advised, as well as wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of the virus.

In an updated report, the CDC advises that cloth masks be multiple layers in thickness and higher thread count; thin or lower thread count cloth masks provide less protection and allow droplets to easily pass through. If hosting or attending gatherings, it is recommended that the number of people be limited to no more than 20; and if weather permits, outdoor gatherings are suggested.

Those at greatest risk are people age 65 and over, people who are immunocompromised, or have underlying health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

For local testing availability contact the Blount County Health Department at 205-274-2120, MainStreet Family Urgent Care at 205-625-3650, or your healthcare provider.