President Eric Cummings said the Marion County School Board will have a discussion Thursday on whether to reinstate a mask warrant, with a opt-out provision, now that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly again throughout the county.

Since the last week of school before winter break, countywide COVID-19 cases reported by the Florida Department of Health have increased tenfold, from 145 for the week ending Dec. 9 to 1,543 for the week ending December 30.

Meanwhile, the state reports that the county’s positivity rate fell from 3% for the week ending December 9 to 17.4% for the week ending December 30.

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The spate of new cases is partly blamed on the emergence of omicron, a variant of SARS-CoV-2 that was identified in South Africa days before Thanksgiving.

In August, when the positivity rate was over 30% and there were 3,228 cases across Marion County, the school board passed a mask mandate that gave parents the right to deny their children to wear a face cover.

In October, when the number of cases fell to less than 100 cases per 100,000 population and the positivity rate fell below 10%, both for two consecutive weeks, the school board rescinded the order.

Cummings said the rate was 414.3 per 100,000 population and the positivity rate is now approaching 20%, state data shows.

In August, the board also banned volunteers until cases and the positivity rate fell below thresholds. Volunteers were also allowed to return in October.

The case rate was 83 cases per 100,000 for the week ending October 14. It was based on 312 Marion’s cases reported for the week of October 8-14.

The case rate is four times higher and the positivity rate is almost double the previous thresholds of the school board to issue a mask mandate.

“We know the numbers have gone up over the holidays,” Cummings said. “I think the numbers will keep going up until the end of the month and then they will come down.”

Cummings said he plans to have a discussion with his fellow board members during Thursday’s business meeting. The session begins at 9 am in the auditorium of the Marion Technical Institute, the new venue for the Board of Directors meetings.

Cummings said he also wanted to discuss the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new quarantine guidelines. The CDC once said that 14 and 10 day quarantines were recommended. Now, the agency “recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict use of the mask for 5 additional days.”

School’s latest COVID report

The school district released its latest COVID-19 report on Monday, albeit for the week of December 11-17, the last week the school was in session. Cummings said the real gauge of cases in schools will come when the next report is released on January 10.

Number of Covid-19 case more than doubled when comparing the week ending December 17 to the week ending December 10.

Monday’s report card found that only 25 people (17 students and eight employees) tested positive for COVID-19 during the week ending December 17, compared to 10 for the week ending December 10.

The record for COVID-19 school cases in one week was 733 from August 21 to 27.

Public Schools in Marion County, the county’s largest employer, educate approximately 43,000 students using 7,000 employees in 51 schools and dozens of district offices.

In the week ending December 17, 169 students and two staff were quarantined, up from 55 from December 4 to 10 and 57 from November 27 to December 27. 3. The record was 3,404 for August 21-27.

The number of new cases for the whole of Marion County was 1,543 for December 24-30, compared to 363 for December 17-23 and 146 for December 3. 9. The countywide record number of cases was 3,228 from Aug. 21-27, according to school district data.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Marion now stands at 59,633.

Londyn Brewer, 6, was all smiles under her mask as her mother Audrey Brewer dropped her off in the car at Shady Hill Elementary School on Tuesday morning August 10, 2021 for the first day of school.  Between 30 and 40% of students wore a mask for their protection, as children 12 and under cannot be vaccinated against COVID19. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2021

From August 20 to 26, Marion recorded a record 3,228 cases over seven days, an average of 461 per day. The winter surge peaked in January, which was then a record, at 1,988 (284 per day) in one week.

Marion continues to see a peak

The seven-day total of new hospitalizations in Marion County was 30 on Monday, although the data has not been updated since New Years Eve. This represents an increase from 23 just before Christmas, according to data from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three months ago, when the peak attributed to the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the total was 350. The seven-day positivity rate was also low: it was as low as 2.79% on November 22. . As of August 12, Marion County’s seven-day positivity rate was 30%.

The Florida Department of Health reported on Friday that Marion’s seven-day positivity rate was 2.4% for the week of December 3-9 and 17.4% on December 30.

A total of 224,432 residents of Marion County have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Of these, 75,099 were also recalled.

The report shows that 69.2% of Marion residents aged 12 and over received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 64.6% of residents aged 5 and over received at least one dose.

During that time, 89.4% of residents aged 65 and over received at least one dose. Data shows that 61.4% of the entire population of Marion received a dose.

– Contact Joe Callahan at (352) 817-1750 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.