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Back to School as the COVID-19 pandemic continues

CDC's data has Marion County as "high" COVID-19 community level
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Posted at 6:38 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 18:38:36-04

MARION COUNTY -- Several districts in Marion County are already back in school, while others start next week. This comes as the CDC classifies Marion County’s COVID-19 community level as “high.”

“So we are seeing numbers go up and the latest map from CDC does show Marion County in the red zone now, which means the CDC recommendations are that everyone starts wearing a mask indoors,” Director of Undergraduate of Epidemiology Program at IUPUI Fairbanks School of Public Health, Shandy Dearth, said.

WRTV reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Dearth, “Should schools require masking now?

Dearth replied: “It would be a good practice to go ahead and do that. I realized they got a lot of pushback from parents and then there are some concerns too, about educational drawbacks to the mask use -- not being able to see mouths as people are talking and that sort of thing. But we really still encourage people to make sure they're distancing as best as possible in the schools --if the schools can do that…and also just looking at some of the large gatherings they might be held at the beginning of the school year, maybe spread those out.”

DeMentri followed up by asking Dearth: “If I'm a parent, what should I take away from this news about the high community level from the CDC right now?”

“So please go ahead and get your child vaccinated. That's the best protection that you can offer your child that's even better than a mask," Dearth said.

WRTV reached out to the eleven districts in Marion County on masking in schools. Several reached back out, including IPS, Beech Grove, Perry Township, Warren Township and Wayne Township. They all said at this time, masks are optional.

Superintendent Dr. Jeff Butts said when it comes to COVID-19, the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township is still seeing cases in employees and students.

“We continue to work with our custodial staff to sanitize our classrooms and disinfection. We’re still utilizing the same protocols from a cleaning standpoint that we did during the pandemic,” Dr. Butts said. He added masking is a personal decision at this point.

Dearth continues to run the contact tracing program in Marion County. She said the focus is on keeping kids K-12 in school.

“There is a resource for the schools in helping keep them open. We identify clusters quickly and we can give them guidance on what to do, to try and stop the spread,” Dearth said.

The COVID-19 contact tracing program in Marion County is set to go until May of 2023.

The Marion County Health Department notes general guidance was sent out to schools and “aligns with CDC guidance.” A spokesperson added every week, it’ll continue to evaluate and communicate COVID-19 risk levels to each county school.