Horry County Schools said Friday that the district won’t be following the latest recommendations from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control regarding crisis staffing.
On Monday, DHEC released official guidance saying that unvaccinated teachers who have been exposed to the virus and have no symptoms would not have to stay home, but they must wear a mask for 10 days following exposure and get tested on day 5 after they are exposed to COVID-19. DHEC said these new directives are aimed at helping to curb school staffing challenges across the state.
“This action is being taken to alleviate school staff shortages in communities with significant outbreaks and is in keeping with the latest understanding and analysis of the risks and benefits,” DHEC said in a weekend news release. “This change will allow more schools to continue providing in-person education for students when they otherwise could not maintain operations due to staffing and would have to close.”
HCS, however, said its procedure would be a much safer option for teachers, staff and students.
“HCS has opted to continue to follow our same quarantine guidance regarding exposure rather than DHEC’s allowance during a crisis staffing condition,” said HCS spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier. “If someone is not maximally/fully vaccinated and has been exposed to the virus, they will continue to quarantine for five days and return if no symptoms are present."
Bourcier said that constant changes to guidance and getting the information out to staff, students, and parents has been difficult.
“If we have learned anything during the pandemic, it would be that we have to be flexible," she said. "As health officials learned more about the virus throughout its onset, we have seen numerous changes to guidelines and recommendations. Sometimes these changes are fast and often."
School nurses and healthcare professionals are also experiencing working conditions they never witnessed before, Bourcier said.
“Healthcare workers, including school nurses, are stressed and stretched too thin, worried about exposure, and emotionally and physically exhausted,” Bourcier said. “HCS has a fantastic team of school nurses, and we couldn’t function without them. We have and will continue to find ways to assist our nurses and alleviate some of the pandemic’s burden that has been placed on their day-to-day operations.”
The newest guidance from HCS regarding quarantines includes the words “if available” regarding tests to be performed after day five of isolation, as at-home tests have been scarce.
“At-home COVID-19 tests are generally still hard to come by despite manufacturer’s efforts to increase test production. DHEC has updated its guidance due to some of these limitations,” Bourcier said. “The availability of tests and turnaround of testing results have resulted in some guidance changes.”
The DHEC guideline changes from earlier this month shortened the quarantine period from ten days to five days. HCS also announced they would accept these at-home test results for a child to return to school, with some stipulations. See complete updated information HERE.
As of Friday morning, 1,753 cases were reported in Horry County Schools, with 1,612 students and 141 staff members infected according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard. Staff are seeing 153 in quarantine and 3,300 students are currently waiting out their quarantines at home.