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Covid-19 up slightly, but overall situation not bad here

STORY BY GEORGE ANDREASSI (Week of December 23, 2021)

COVID-19 made a slight comeback in Indian River County’s public schools in December, but there was no immediate indication that the rise in cases here was being driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Four students and two school employees tested positive for COVID-19 last week, bringing the total number of new cases to 17 for the month of December as Winter Break started on Monday.

That was more than triple the total of five COVID-19 cases reported in the public schools during the entire month of November, school district records show.

Countywide, among the general population, the number of new infections has been creeping upward, but nothing like the worrisome spikes seen elsewhere. As of press time Monday Indian River County was categorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an area of “moderate community transmission” with a seven-day count of 71 new COVID-19 cases.

The nation as a whole is considered an area of “high community transmission,” as is all of South Florida plus the Orlando area. Neighboring St. Lucie and Osceola counties were labeled as areas of “substantial community transmission” heading into Christmas week.

Nearly three quarters of all Indian River County residents age 5 and older have been vaccinated against the virus.

Schools Superintendent David Moore and Public Information Officer Cristen Maddux had not responded as of Monday (Dec. 20) to repeated email and text inquiries about the uptick in COVID-19 cases in December.

“I never want to talk about COVID again, to be honest with you,” Moore told the School Board on Dec. 14 during a discussion about the district’s updated health and safety plan for the reopening of schools on Jan. 5.

The School Board voted unanimously to approve the updated Safe at School plan.

Moore assured the board the plan conforms with new state laws barring public schools from requiring students to wear a facemask or quarantining asymptomatic students.

Overall, a total of 1,135 students and 216 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the school year started Aug. 10, school district records show. A total of 1,394 students have been quarantined.

That includes four school students who tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 15, two at Vero Beach Elementary and one each at Vero Beach High and the Alternative Center for Education.

Two employees tested positive for the virus on Dec. 13, one at Vero Beach High and one on the administrative staff, school district records show.