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Mason: COVID-19 quarantines sideline students from school, sports: ‘This is a huge problem’ |

“This is just boiling up,” said Jonathan Cooper, superintendent of the district of more than 10,000 students. “We have 177 students who are currently sitting in a quarantine at home with no symptoms because of seven who tested positive,” Cooper pointed out early in October. 532 Mason City Schools students have spent time quarantined between the start of school on Aug. 24 through the end of September. Twenty-six staff members also had to forgo classroom-based work.

The number fluctuates, but students are always missing during the pandemic. Quarantine is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention method to protect others from catching COVID-19, infectious disease experts say. It happens when local health officials do contact tracing, tracking those who’ve been near the COVID-19-positive person. The tracers are following hundreds of cases that have cropped up in at least 103 schools and districts across the Cincinnati region. More than 350 students and more than 120 staffers at those schools have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an Enquirer tally of district and state reports.

Parents, students and school officials in the Cincinnati region are upset about lost time in academics, sports and just plain school-related experiences for kids who end up quarantined. 

On Oct. 6, Gov. DeWine announced that he’d authorized a study focused on school students who are quarantined. “We have heard anecdotally that most quarantined students are not getting sick,” DeWine said, “but I believe that it is important to have data and evidence before considering a change to the recommended guidance.”

Mason City Schools adopted a new option this month for student-athletes, band members and other student competitors who have cherished events on the calendar. “We are letting them voluntarily decide to do a two-week quarantine” in advance of an event, Tracey Carson, a spokeswoman for Mason City Schools said. “It is a way to prevent the possibility of COVID-19 exposure and, therefore, quarantines that would keep them sidelined.”