Saturday, April 01, 2023

Masks required again at LCHS

Staff Writer | May 21, 2021 1:08 AM

Lake City High School, starting today, is requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear masks again due to a rise in coronavirus cases.

“The COVID-19 outbreak among Lake City students has worsened over the past week, and our recent mitigation strategies have not been effective to slow the spread of the virus in school,” wrote PCHS Principal Deanne Clifford in a letter sent out to students and families Thursday.

The school’s senior graduation ceremony could be in jeopardy.

She wrote school officials are aware that 23 students have tested positive since April 26, they believe 20 of those positive cases are related to in-school transmission.

Two Lake City staff members also recently contracted the virus, and it’s believed that three bus drivers out sick with COVID were exposed while driving Lake City students.

As a result, “all students, staff and visitors must wear masks while at school, with no exceptions,” Clifford wrote. “Even those who have been fully vaccinated will need to wear their mask at school.”

The requirement will extend through the end of the school year on June 11.

“The high number of quarantines we have seen in recent weeks is an outcome of exposures that occur when one or both parties are unmasked,” Clifford wrote.

Kootenai County’s coronavirus cases and positivity rate also continue to rise.

The Panhandle Health District reported Thursday 57 new cases and one death that was attributed to the virus. Thirty-eight of those new cases were in Kootenai County, which now has a total of 18,355 cases.

Kootenai County’s positivity rate for COVID rose for the seventh straight week, to 8.2% based on 1,910 PCR tests for the week ending May 15. It reached a low of 2.9% on April 27 but has climbed steadily since.

In contrast, the state’s positivity rate remained at 4.3% for the third straight week.

The number of COVID-19 inpatients at Kootenai Health doubled in less than a week, reaching 32 on Tuesday. On Thursday, KH had 27 COVID-19 inpatients, with six requiring critical care.

Dr. Robert Scoggins, KH chief of staff, wrote that they suspected the increase was due to new transmissible variants entering the population and a low rate of vaccination in the community.

PHD said Kootenai and Shoshone counties remain in the orange — “moderate” — risk level category, while Benewah, Bonner and Boundary are in the yellow, “minimal risk,” category.

Kootenai County’s vaccination of those 12 and older is 37%, with 53,013 having received at least one dose.

Ada County, Idaho's largest by population, has a vaccination rate of 53% of those 12 and older at 219,621.

Katherine Hoyer, PHD spokeswoman, said they are seeing a steady rise in cases. A few weeks ago they were averaging 20-30 cases per day, but now PHD is seeing an average of around 50 cases per day.

"This isn’t the direction we want to head," Hoyer wrote.

People have plenty of options to get vaccinated.

PHD offers vaccine clinics in Kootenai County on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (excluding this Saturday due to Memorial Day). It has vaccine clinics in Bonner County on Wednesdays. Mobile vaccine clinics are posted on the PHD website for scheduling appointments. PHD also offers vaccine appointments at all of its office locations in the five northern counties.

“If you are unable to attend one of our clinics, there are over 30 other providers that you can receive the vaccine from,” Hoyer wrote. “Safeway and Albertsons pharmacies are offering walk-in appointments. The vaccine is free and readily available to the community.”

The Coeur d'Alene School Board trustees voted 3-2 on April 19 during a special workshop to rescind the district’s mask requirement and instead opted to "strongly recommend" masks and face coverings for students.

Clifford wrote that part of the problem at LCHS is that “at least two students who, after testing positive, chose not to notify the school or the health district, and attended classes without masks, in disregard for the health and safety of others."

She also wrote that many students ignore the school's current requirement to wear a mask at school unless they have been vaccinated and it has been at least two weeks since their second dose.

Clifford wrote that the situation “has reached a critical juncture.”

Further mitigation options under consideration include a return to blended learning, with students attending in person two days a week; going to fully remote/online learning; and/or canceling all remaining events and activities, potentially including our graduation ceremony scheduled for June 12, she wrote.

“It’s important that you understand this is our last-ditch effort to avoid more forceful and far-reaching actions over the next three weeks,” Clifford wrote.

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