The number of Alabama school children aged 5 to 17 who contracted COVID-19 during the first week of school this year was 700 percent more than during the same time last year, said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Thursday.
“We are concerned about what’s going on with our schools coming back into session,” Harris said during a Facebook Live discussion held by the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.
Harris said this year’s numbers “are just staggering,” with 5,571 cases among students, compared to just more than 700 last year by this time.
“We again want to remind people that everyone needs to be vaccinated who’s eligible. That’s everyone aged 12 and up,” Harris said.
Gov. Kay Ivey has continuously said she has no plans to make another statewide mask mandate, either in schools or for the public, leaving the decision to local school systems, which are struggling with cases and quarantining among student and staff, and are patching together policies around contact tracing and quarantine.
“We strongly recommend universal masking in schools. One of the ways to stay in school, if you’re exposed to a case, is to be in a setting where you’re consistently masked and you’re staying at least three feet apart,” Harris said. “It’s very important for us to keep children in school, but we absolutely have to find a way to do that safely.”