Drop in Lexington Co. COVID-19 cases offers hope for in-person learning at schools

Drop in Lexington Co. COVID-19 cases offers hope for in-person learning at schools

LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - A disease activity map released by DHEC earlier this week showed that, for the first time in weeks, some counties downgraded from high-disease activity to medium-disease activity.

Lexington County is the only one in the Midlands to hit this milestone of lower disease activity, and it comes as many Lexington County school districts prepare to welcome students back face to face.

All five of Lexington County’s school districts gave parents the option for some form of in-person learning to start off the school year with most of them opting for a hybrid model, but a few superintendents said these new numbers make them hopeful that five days a week in-person might be possible after the first month of school.

“For us to be successful in school, we are going to have to have our community on board,” Lexington One Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said.

Little said DHEC’s disease activity map showing medium spread in Lexington is one sign the community is stepping up to the plate. Little said the new numbers make him feel confident they can welcome back students at the end of August safely and successfully transition from a hybrid model to in-person learning five days a week on September 28.

“We’re seeing lots of people wearing masks and that’s really what we want our community to continue to do because as the spread goes down, it increases our chances of having a successful school year,” Little said.

DHEC said medium disease activity means that the number of cases is between 51-200 for every 100,000 residents and the percent positive rate is between 5-10%.

“We have 4,000 employees and nearly 27,000 students. Community spread potentially has a huge impact on what’s happening in schools, so when we see that number diminish, it gives us confidence that we aren’t going to be battling what we were battling when we were in high community spread,” Little said.

Lexington One will be starting the year on August 31 with a hybrid model where students alternate between in-person for half the week and virtual for the other half. Little said if the numbers continue to go down, he’s confident the could transition to their next phase of reopening.

“As the spread goes down in the community, it increases our chances of having a successful school year and moving to a five-day face to face model because we are going to be able with the safety mitigation measures we have in place to control it on campus, but what we need help with is when students and adults are not on campus making sure we are controlling it at the community-wide level as well,” Little said.

Lexington-Richland 5 Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton said she’s also hopeful about the trend.

“School District Five is in a unique situation having a portion of Richland County and a portion of Lexington County, but it’s encouraging to see the drop in Lexington County,” Dr. Melton said.

She said they are monitoring all their zip codes on a daily basis and they hope to return to full five days a week in person on October 8.

“I encourage people to continue wearing their masks and social distancing because what happens in our communities is going to directly affect what happens in our schools,” Dr. Melton said.

DHEC said that Richland County is still classified as a high disease activity, which means that there are more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents and the percent positive rate is over 10%. The other six counties to drop to medium disease activity are Greenville, Horry, Marion, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartanburg.

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