Concerns raised over school district’s quarantine policy after thousands sent home

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — As of Monday, 3,192 Rowan-Salisbury students and 149 of the district’s teachers were quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19.

Officials said those people either tested positive for COVID-19, were exposed to a positive person or have virus symptoms. According to district policy, anyone who falls under any of those categories must quarantine for 10 days.

Parent Jill Smith said she waited hours at Rowan County’s health department trying to get her twin boys tested for COVID-19.

“We waited two hours in this line to be told that, finally, they can’t be tested because they haven’t registered online,” she said.

Smith said the first graders were sent home from school after exhibiting some symptoms at school.

“They got sent home early because they had a couple of sniffles and they coughed a couple times,” she said. “They can’t come back to school until Sept. 10 unless they are cleared.”

At an emergency school board meeting Monday night, some people questioned the method used to determine whether kids should quarantine.

“We have to do a better job of quarantine and quit trying to quarantine every single soul,” one person said.

School officials told Channel 9 that principals, nurses and support staff are following state guidelines for quarantine, but they are monitoring the process to ensure consistency.

According to health officials, the county’s highest new case numbers continue to be in the groups with the lowest vaccination rates, which includes children younger than 17. Officials said those cases represent the largest number of cases within that age group ever reported and the greatest increase of new cases each day.

“Rowan County has the highest cases per 100,000 population in the state of North Carolina and we are seeing cases higher than what we had in the winter,” the county’s health director Alyssa Harris said. “I cannot stress this enough -- COVID-19 delta is much more contagious than previous variants. It is also spreading among children at a much higher rate than previous variants.”

Last week, Channel 9 reported that many local school districts will take part in a state-funded testing program designed to help kids get tested quickly and prevent long quarantines.

Rowan-Salisbury officials that testing hasn’t started yet but they should find out more about the program within the next two weeks.

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