About 15 percent of all Mississippi K-12 students have already faced quarantine this school year, either for testing positive for COVID-19 or due to known exposures, Mississippi Free Press reported Wednesday.
In the latest report, which includes figures from 835 schools in 75 counties, data showed that 65,525 students have been ordered to isolate since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. The state also revealed that there were 5,763 new cases among students from Aug. 16-20, with about 28,990 students ordered to self-isolate due to exposure risks. Those numbers are higher than the previous week, according to the Free Press.
The schools also revealed that there are 2,383 new cases among K-12 employees and staff this month, with 945 cases just last week.
The report comes after more than 20,000 Mississippi students were quarantined after they were exposed to the virus during the first week of school.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who did not issue a statewide mask mandate for schools this year after doing so last year, said that the flood of cases might not be attributed to school exposure.
“I don’t think that you can necessarily make the leap from those individuals testing positive to the transmission occurring in schools,” he said during a press conference Tuesday. “Some of it most likely occurred in schools, some of it most likely occurred in the community, and so I think it’s important that we make sure we don’t jump to irresponsible conclusions without having the data to verify that.”
He added that the COVID-19 emergency order he put forward gives local government entities the ability to let sick employees isolate themselves without using personal leave time, the Free Press reported. However, local governments and school districts are not required to use that flexibility, which may put employees in a difficult position.
“Now if you’re a teacher or an employee, the best way for you not to have to be put in a position where you’re trying to be convinced whether you’re going to take personal leave or not is to not get COVID,” Reeves said. “And to be vaccinated certainly reduces your risk. It doesn’t eliminate it, but reduces your risk considerably.”