State Superintendent Eric Mackey on Thursday said the state has “scores of campuses” closed in- person instruction and more than 9,000 COVID-19 cases reported among students and staff in schools this week.
Mackey said during the Facebook Live discussion, held by the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, that 94 school systems reported COVID data to the Alabama department of Public Health’s K-12 COVID-19 dashboard. Last week, the first week the dashboard went live for this school year, 52 systems had reported data, totaling 4,337 cases then. As of Friday morning that dashboard hadn’t updated with the latest numbers Mackey spoke of.
Mackey said he’s receiving reports of parents who are getting their children tested for COVID-19, the test results come back positive but the parents send their child back to school without notifying the school of the positive test result.
“I would, again, beg parents: please don’t do that,” Mackey said.
”I can’t verify that that’s happening, but we’re getting regular reports that it’s happening, and so there’s a good chance that it is happening,” Mackey said. “Obviously, that just makes it more difficult on everyone else.”
Asked by someone watching the live discussion how parents can notify schools of other parents who aren’t turning in their kid’s positive test results, and are sending their child with COVID-19 to school, Mackey said “you need to report that to the superintendent.”
“Certainly, reach out to public health as well,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. “If we know of those cases we’ll do our best to help.”
Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health and a pediatrician, said during the discussion that she has “significant concerns” about the number of cases the state is seeing among children and echoed Mackey’s warnings to parents.
“If your child is positive for COVID they need to stay at home for the period of isolation, for the protection of the children around them,” Landers said. “That asymptomatic case of COVID can certainly transmit COVID to other children.”
Landers said that 24.8 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases over the last four weeks were among children. That’s higher than the 22.4 percent of cases nationally last week that were among children, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Gov. Kay Ivey has said she will not order a statewide mask mandate again for the public or in schools. Mackey said that as of this week approximately 90 percent of school systems are requiring students and staff to wear masks. Many systems began the year without such a requirement but reversed course after outbreaks.
School staff is receiving the brunt of anger from parents over mitigation strategies in schools, Mackey said, with parents “screaming at school nurses. Screaming at their principals.”
“Some of our employees have had to have police protection now because of the threats that have come at them,” Mackey said. “Folks. This is civil society, and we’re all doing the best we can. Just be kind to your teachers and your school nurses, your public health nurses and officials. We’re all trying to get through this.”
Mackey also explained that children who are at home under quarantine, for either being deemed a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 or for testing positive themselves, should not be participating in extracurricular activities.
The state had 120 more people needing care in an ICU bed on Thursday than the state had ICU beds, according to the Alabama Hospital Association. The state had 2,838 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday, just 246 from the state’s record high. Of those hospitalized on Thursday, 56 were children, according to the association.