Masks remain optional in LCS as quarantines increase


LINCOLNTON — After a slight spike in the number of students quarantined due to potential exposures to COVID-19, the Lincoln County Board of Education voted 4-3 to keep face coverings optional inside schools. 

The vote mirrored the one taken at the last meeting Oct. 12, with board members Mark Mullen, Heather Rhyne, Christina Sutton and Tony Jenkins approving the motion; and Myra Heavner, Todd Wulfhorst and Joan Avery voting no.

 

Positive cases and quarantines

An average of 54 positive cases and 114 students quarantined were reported each week during the month of October, according to data from the district. A cluster of 18 cases at North Lincoln Middle School was reported over the same period, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. 

In the first two weeks of November, the average number of cases per week dropped to 49, but the average number of students quarantined jumped to 122. A total of 675 students have been quarantined, including those who tested positive for COVID-19, since the mask-optional policy went into effect Sept. 29, according to LCS Chief of Accountability Rusty Saine. 

“I think the whole reason why we’re here is to not lose instructional time for our kids, and to do what’s best for our kids,” Heavner said, expressing concern about the number of kids missing in-person instruction. 

In accordance with the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit, students and staff who test positive for or are exposed to COVID-19 are required to stay home for a minimum of seven days. Those who are symptomatic must remain off-campus for a 10-day period, or until they can present a doctor’s note showing a diagnosis other than COVID-19 and are without a fever for 24 hours, Saine said. 

During the Nov. 9 meeting, Wulfhorst, who considered voting for optional masking until he saw the quarantine numbers, asked Saine how many of them could be avoided if a mask mandate was in place. 

“If everybody would have been masked, that would have been 216 kids that would have still been in school,” Saine responded, referring to the number of students quarantined because of potential exposure to the virus. 

 

‘I’m deeply concerned’

Before the vote, Heavner, who has consistently voted to require face coverings, delivered a statement to the board, on behalf of students, parents and staff who have advocated for a mask mandate in schools. 

“I strongly believe parents know what’s best for their children,” Heavner said. “However, as a school board, we’re  charged with the mission to help ensure the school system is a safe environment and conducive for learning for all students.” 

Heavner, who said an average of four students are required to quarantine for every positive case reported, also apologized to masked students who were sent home because of a potential exposure, and to nurses who work long days to contact trace. 

“I value modern medicine, and the medical experts in our county,” she continued. “Even though many of them have spoken in front of the board, we have continued to ignore the recommendations for you to wear a mask in order to keep you in school. … I’m deeply concerned about what this board will do in the future if we have another wave push through our community.”

 

One response to “Masks remain optional in LCS as quarantines increase”

  1. Kirk Hahn says:

    Good! Masks do nothing at all to stop the spread of the virus. The virus is less than 1 micron in size, the holes in masks are 80-90 micron in size. Masks do however trap bacteria and toxins that are in your environment and that you exhale from your body, breathing these in can give you a Respiratory tract infection. Stop it immediately! Instead take vitamin, C, D, Zinc, Quercetin. Get fresh air, sunlight, exercise.

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