Union County School Board rejects quarantine measures, halts contact tracing, orders students back to school

Union County Board of Education. (Photo: ucps.k12.nc.us)

One of the only school districts in North Carolina not to require masks in its schools, went a step further Monday in its approach to dealing with the coronavirus. In a specially called meeting, the Union County Board of Education voted effective immediately, to halt all staff responsibilities regarding contact tracing and quarantining for students and staff, except as required by law.

“Due to the lack of legal authority, UCPS students who have been contacted by UCPS staff via contact tracing, are no longer obligated or under orders of quarantine that have been communicated in writing or by phone contact, since we do not have the legal authority,” said board member Gary Sides.

“And they can come back?” asked at-large board member Rev. Jimmy H. Bention, Sr.

“They need to come back,” responded Sides.

“As long as they have no symptoms,” offered board chair Melissa Merrell.

“And this includes staff as well,” said Sides.

Only Rev. John J. Kirkpatrick voted against the amendment, which easily passed 8-1.

For the week of September 6-10, Union County reported 479 positive COVID cases with 7,381 students and staff in quarantine. Quarantine is a precaution recommended for an individual who has been identified as a close contact to someone with COVID-19.

The statement from the school district reads in part:

All students and staff who do not have a positive COVID-19 test or symptoms, should return to school or work immediately.

If a student or staff member has the following symptoms: fever or chills, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, headache, they should stay home, stay away from others and call their health care provider.

Students and staff who have been isolated due to a positive case or COVID-19 symptoms, should not report to school or work until they have completed 10 days of isolation, symptoms have improved and fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.

Face coverings will remain optional for students and school staff.

Roughly 46% of the county’s residents are fully vaccinated.

Watch Monday’s full school board meeting below:

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