COVID-19 continues to spread in the county with a 10th death reported Monday and as Montpelier Exempted Village Schools begins e-learning for a section of the school.

Health Commissioner Jim Watkins told The Bryan Times of a 10th confirmed COVID-19-related death in the county. The death was confirmed after daily statistics were reported late Monday by the county and state health departments. The victim was a 76-year-old male.

Watkins told The Times that at least two additional deaths have been confirmed, but are still in the reporting pipeline, and so those deaths also have not been officially released and entered into the county’s totals yet.

"Each death is unfortunate, but we’re seeing the jump recently in the numbers of cases and the number of deaths and I’m afraid this is going to happen more and more,” he said.

According to the data released Monday, the county has 1,232 total cases, including 85 new cases since Friday. There have been 77 total hospitalizations, while 731 people have presumably recovered as of Friday.

Watkins and state officials continue to recommend social distancing and wearing a mask. The ongoing mask controversy, with a percentage of people declining to wear a mask or questioning whether masks are effective, is “unfortunate," he said.

“Wearing a mask is really a simple (request)," he said. "It helps stop the spread of the virus. While it may not 100% effective, it is proven to help prevent the spread of the virus."

SCHOOLS

Last week, Montpelier Exempted Village Schools decided to go to e-learning, but only for the students in grades seven through 12.

"It wasn't because we had a whole lot of positive cases, it was just the fact that when you do have one positive case it was leading to 30, 40, sometimes 50 quarantines due to being in close contact," said Jamison Grime, Montpelier superintendent. "The best way to spread kids out was to leave them at home so when we do have these positive cases it's not going to lead to having to quarantine dozens of people at a time."

Five new positive COVID-19 cases were reported last week in seventh through 12th grade staff. Two students in that grade range tested positive, as did two staff in preschool through sixth grade.

So far, no preschool through sixth grade students have tested positive, according to the school district's data, which is updated every Tuesday.

Grime said the seventh through 12th grade students will continue to learn remotely through Jan. 11.

"By doing remote learning through Jan. 11, that gives us the opportunity to get through all three of the holidays, being Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's," he said. "Anybody who comes down positive over the holidays won't be bringing it to school and spreading it around the school."

Another concerning issue, Grime said, is the staffing level.

"We've been able to get everything covered, but we are in a situation where we are running very low on substitute teachers and we've had to shuffle some staff around here to make sure everyone is covered," he said.

Edgerton Local Schools is also facing issues with staff.

According to a letter on the district's website, positive cases and quarantining of the staff led the district to switch to remote learning last week, with a blended learning model starting this week. They intend to return to full, in-person learning on Jan. 4.

Mark Rairigh, Bryan City Schools superintendent, said his district has been fortunate to have enough staff to cover all classes.

It has helped that, currently, only one staff member has an active COVID-19 case and one other staff member is quarantined.

"That does allow us to provide sufficient staffing levels and allows us to have enough substitutes for the normal, day-to-day staff absences," he said, adding staff have been flexible with substitutions. "For example, a teacher who may have their plan period, instead of having their plan period that day may be willing to cover another class."

Outside of the staffing issues, Rairigh said they have been doing well.

Students returned from the fall break on Monday with most students being able to attend.

"The break allowed many of our students and staff members who were serving in quarantine to conclude their quarantine days, which allowed us to come back to school after our break with very high attendance numbers," Rairigh said. "At this point, now, we're going to continue to monitor the data that's available to us as we are back in session."

While they hope to continue in-person learning, they are prepared to go to remote learning, if needed.

As of Monday, Bryan City Schools had four active student cases and 67 students quarantined.

In total, there have been 21 student cases and 17 staff cases.

Edgerton Local Schools has reported 30 total positive cases, with 27 recoveries.

In Edon Northwest Local Schools, one positive student case was listed last week and no staff cases were reported. However, one staff case was reported Monday.

Millcreek-West Unity Local Schools reported one case in the junior high and high school.

According to state information updated last week, Stryker Local Schools reported four new student cases and one new staff case, resulting in a total of six student cases and three staff cases.

North Central Local Schools' last positive case was in a single teacher, reported on Nov. 20. The school had gone to remote learning starting Nov. 16, when 25 staff members and 160 students were quarantined.

According to that district's website, students were set to return to school today.

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