richard dennis

In line with trends happening in Alabama and throughout the United States, COVID-19 numbers are on the rise within Elmore County Schools.

At a board of education meeting on Tuesday, Superintendent Richard Dennis said the school district is starting to see increases in the number of positive COVID cases reported.

On Nov. 13 around 3 p.m., Dennis released his weekly COVID update. The statement reads:

“As we end week 14 a total of 19 students reported testing positive this week for COVID-19 and six employees. Wetumpka Middle School boys and girls basketball teams have been suspended for two weeks due to players and coaches testing positive for COVID-19. We will reevaluate the health status of both teams after returning from the Thanksgiving holidays before resuming competitions. Surrounding counties have increased COVID-19 cases, and we have seen an increase this week, specifically, over the last two days. Please, take precautions with your students so that we can limit the exposure to others.”

Days later on Wednesday, Dennis said during a phone interview that in just half a week, the system already had 26 students that tested positive and at least seven employees. He said the numbers are above what the district’s weekly average has been.

“We are looking at numbers increasing,” he said. “Already at this point, we’re beyond what we’ve been seeing for entire weeks.”

There’s been an uptick in the number of positive COVID cases in Elmore County as a whole, according to data collected by the Alabama Department of Public Health. From Nov. 7-9, there were between 23 and 26 total confirmed cases each day. On Nov. 10 there were 31 confirmed cases and on Nov. 12 there were 41. The number of daily-confirmed cases has consistently remained in the mid-30s to mid-40s since Nov. 12.

Nationally, all 50 states, including Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, have experienced increases over the last 14 days. Some states have already issued new lockdown restrictions.

In response, county schools have increased cleaning measures beyond what was already being done. Disinfectant spraying was already being done in schools multiple times per day, but Dennis said those measures have increased even more. The schools are equipped with backpack and handheld spraying devices. School buses also have sprayers, which Dennis said will also be helpful with battling the flu. 

“With the number of students in class, we’re not capable of social distancing students in the classroom,” he said. “But we are asking personnel to social distance themselves in school as much as possible.”

Dennis urged the Elmore County community to do its part to slow the spread of the virus. According to guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, that means wearing a face mask, washing your hands frequently, staying at least six feet apart from others at staying at home as much as possible.

But contrary to speculation, Dennis said students will be returning to school to school after Thanksgiving break.

“There have been some rumors that we are not returning after the Thanksgiving break like how the colleges are doing, but we’re not in the same situation as colleges. Colleges have students who come from all over the nation and even internationally, and they don’t want thousands of people going back to wherever they’re from and then coming back to campus and bringing the virus with them. For the most part, we stay here and go home everyday.”

Dennis said the district will continue to address COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis.