Parent group wants state to force Union County schools to follow COVID-19 guidelines

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County schools have announced that they will be getting rid of its contact tracing and quarantine policies on Monday.

However, one parent organization is calling on the state to intervene and force the district to follow state guidelines.

“If I wasn’t treating 20, 30, 40 COVID cases after their ICU stays in the rehab setting right now, I would say yeah, maybe we are at the stage where we can ease up. But that’s not the case,” Union County parent Dr. Sandeep Patel said.

Patel said he spends his day treating patients who are recovering from COVID-19.

He said he is urging the school board not to let go of its last COVID safety measures, contact tracing and quarantining.

“I think the supporters of those decisions will claim that it’s a virus we need to live with. And believe me, a physician, trust me — I agree. It’s not going away. Are we truly at a point where it’s endemic just yet? Not at these levels, and not based on what we are seeing on the ground,” Patel said.

SOS Union County is a parent group urging the state to intervene.

They said they see ending quarantine measures as the board’s reaction to hundreds of absent staff members.

“The teachers aren’t there. The subs aren’t there. Kids are just in gymnasiums, packed into rooms and told to work on their Chromebooks,” Krystyn Smith with SOS Union County said. “It’s a mess. It’s a mess all the way around. And this a mess that the board of education created and it was 100% avoidable.”

The group said it was avoidable because the state toolkit states if masks were required, students and staff wouldn’t need to quarantine.

However, Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis said the board has received plenty of support from parents to disregard the guidelines from health leaders.

On Thursday, the district told Curtis that it hasn’t heard from the state on its new policy expected to go into place Monday.

“It’s a tragedy for the whole county,” Smith said.

In a move that could impact every district in the state, county commissioners and the school board sent a formal resolution to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in December, asking the state to drop its quarantine requirements from the toolkit.

The state has not responded to that resolution.

Curtis said she asked DHHS whether it would intervene now the way they did in September, but has not heard back.

Nearly a month ago, Union County schools stopped posting its weekly COVID numbers on its website.

Channel 9 reached out to the district to learn how many students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last week.

The district said it has 566 student cases and 100 staff cases.

Union County is in the “red” zone for high levels of community transmission, with a positive test percentage of 41.4%.

That’s nearly double the state percent positivity rate, which is 22.2%.

South Carolina has a positivity rate of 24.4%.

(WATCH BELOW: Union County schools end contact tracing, quarantine requirements)