Nearly 900 students and staff in quarantine in one of NJ’s largest school districts – NBC New York
Barely three weeks into the new school year, it’s already back to the drawing board for students and teachers in a New Jersey school district.
At least 864 students, or about 6% of the student body, and 26 staff members are in quarantine in Toms River after being exposed to COVID-19, officials said. Now, experts are trying to figure out how the virus spread so quickly among students and staff.
With 19 schools and over 15,000 students, Toms River is one of New Jersey’s largest districts. Since the start of the school year, 218 students have tested positive for COVID-19 and others have been quarantined after coming into contact with them.
A week ago, the district had to close a special education class following an outbreak – but the school principal warned there was no need to panic.
The Woodbridge Township teacher attempted to apply for a medical exemption so that she would not have to wear a mask at school.
“As far as school closures go, no, we’re not there,” said Stephen Genco, superintendent of schools at Toms River.
Many parents criticized the school principal’s decision to make masks optional in classrooms without air conditioning at the start of the fall school year. The district switched to making masks mandatory last week.
Genco says the number of students quarantined may seem like a lot, but the numbers tend to drop from more than 1,000 students and staff three days ago.
“We are seeing more students coming out of 40s than we are putting in every day,” Genco said. “We therefore hope that this trend will continue.”
Parent Katie Sherman says her grade 2 student has asthma and is worried about her health with the high numbers in her 40s, but she also said she was confident in the school’s ability to keep his son. However, she keeps an eye on the number of hospitalizations.
The New Jersey Department of Health said contact tracers are now working with schools to determine the source of the outbreak. Genco added that he believes the positive cases are residual effects of the summer and expects the numbers to decline as children are masked and spend more time in school.
During his COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy briefly touched on the ongoing outbreaks in the school district, saying there was no evidence yet that masks played a role in the spread of the virus. However, he said the masking has a big impact on the reality of public health in general.
Natalie Wester and Jose Lopez-Guerrero were told to leave a Texas restaurant after wearing masks to their table on a rare evening. The parents told LX News they were just trying to be careful to protect their 4-month-old son, who has cystic fibrosis. “They are struggling to fight off a common disease. So we have to take extra care,” Wester said.
“The CDC, the Arizona study, three and a half more likely to stay safe and healthy if you wear [a mask] – by the way, it does not bring us any joy to demand this, but it is clear that it is necessary and that it keeps the children, the educators and the personnel in good health ”, declared the governor.
The Democrat also updated the total number of outbreaks statewide, saying there were 39 outbreaks in 16 counties on Monday.
“We continue to work with all of our educational communities and local health partners to identify cases of transmission in schools to minimize the impact and keep our schools safe learning spaces,” said Murphy.