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Weeks before the start of school Mid-South dealing with surge in COVID-19 cases

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 4:46 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Director of the CDC is calling the surge in COVID-19 cases the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’ Now, one Mid-South state is recommending all eligible students and school staff get vaccinated before the start of school begins in just a few weeks.

On Friday, the Mississippi Department of Health released guidance for K-12 schools this year urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and for schools to ask those who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks in class.

For weeks now doctors have said the virus is mainly impacting those who are not vaccinated, which automatically includes those 11 and younger who are not eligible for the vaccine. Going into the school year some Mid-South school districts are making it easy for those who can to get the vaccine.

The CDC has released recommended guidance for schools for the 2021-2022 school year. It includes requiring masks for unvaccinated people, creating three feet of social distancing and getting vaccinated.

The Shelby County Health Department hopes to see districts adopt these recommendations.

“Our message is the same to those of age to get the vaccine, get vaccinated, teachers and staff, get vaccinated,” Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said.

Last school year Shelby County’s school districts held vaccination events for staff.

This weekend the County Health Department is holding an event to prepare for back to school offering childhood vaccinations including COVID-19 shots.

That event will be Saturday July 17 at the Shelby County Health Department at 814 Jefferson Avenue in Memphis from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On July 31 a Shelby County Schools event for families will also offer the vaccine. That will take place at the Pipkin Building from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

It’s a way to get prepared for what is expected.

“Of course we have options for our families to stay virtual last school year, but we’re looking for all students to return in person this year,” SCS Chief of Communications Jerica Phillips said.

Doctors said the unvaccinated are most at risk of serious illness from the quick-spreading delta variant of COVID-19.

This week Mississippi reported seven children were in the ICU with the virus, two on ventilators.

In a memo from April, Desoto County Schools said it will not mandate masks at schools this year, but this week, before the health department’s latest guidance, the district said the plan could change as case rates change.

SCS required masks inside buildings this summer, but will release a new plan going into the school year.

Arlington and Millington said masks will be optional in schools, and parents tell WMC Action News 5 Bartlett City Schools are also making them optional.

Collierville Schools and Germantown Municipal School District are still working on their plans. WMC did not hear back from the Lakeland School System on Friday.

In Arkansas, state law prohibits school districts from requiring masks.

For a list of places to get vaccinated now click here.

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