By Taylor Boyd
The Patrick County Public School system is experiencing an almost daily increase in positive COVID-19 cases and/or quarantines.
The school division’s COVID-19 dashboard reported an increase in positive cases and quarantines at every county school, with Patrick County High School continuing to report the largest number of both.
Brandon Simmons, chairman of the Patrick County School Board, said he did not anticipate the case numbers to be so high this early in the school year.
“Right now, I feel like one of the bigger problems that you have is not necessarily that you got so many people in the school around each other together, I think it’s that we’re still in summer with hot weather, and there’s so much stuff people can do and get out and do together,” he said.
Simmons, of the Dan River District, said he hopes the situation will change as the weather begins to cool.
“A lot of this is not coming from the schools, a lot of this may be coming from outside of school,” he added.
Walter Scott, vice-chairman, said he is not surprised about the high case numbers because of the numerous ongoing sports programs and most enjoying the last few weeks of summer.
But “I am a little bit surprised that the vaccinations seem to not be working all that well in adults. It seems like a lot of cases are coming from adults who are already vaccinated,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), even when a vaccine is highly effective, a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus.
Because no vaccine is 100 percent effective, some of those who are fully vaccinated are expected to become infected according to the CDC. However, in most cases, those people do not have symptoms or have only mild symptoms, and the infections also may be shorter in duration.
Scott, of the Smith River District, said he believes everyone will eventually wind up with COVID-19, and the situation will not improve until everybody gets it.
“Kind of like the chickenpox. When everybody gets the chickenpox it goes away,” he said, and added that he believes that there are a lot worse things than COVID-19 for students.
“I personally think we should keep them (schools) open as long as we possibly can. I am not for closing schools at this point,” he said.
Amy Walker, of the Mayo River District, said she also expected many cases this early in the year.
“We have been informed that the spread of the virus is not within the schools. It’s coming into the schools, but it’s not centered in the schools and spreading out,” she said.
Walker said she does not anticipate the case numbers to drop once summer is over because of the continuing athletics.
“Until we can slow that down a little bit with travel ball and folks practicing and conditioning for athletics,” she said, adding that while athletics are not the main point of the spike, “they still play a large role in it.”
The dashboard is updated on Wednesdays. As of August 25, it suggested there were 69 positive cases and 245 people in quarantine in the school system, including 56 positive cases and 165 students and staff in quarantine at Patrick County High School.
The dashboard suggested the elementary schools each have a minimum of one positive case and five quarantines.
There were no reported cases or quarantines in the Central Office, Transportation Department, Maintenance Department, or the Technology Department, according to the dashboard.
Shannon Harrell, of the Blue Ridge District, and Ryan Lawson, of the Peters Creek District, could not be reached for comment.
The Patrick County Public School COVID-19 Dashboard is updated by the close of business each Wednesday. It can be viewed at www.patrick.k12.va.us/families/covid-19_dashboard.