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Gering, Alliance schools see outbreaks of COVID-19 affect activities

Gering, Alliance schools see outbreaks of COVID-19 affect activities

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Around 70 people at Gering High School are under quarantine this week after an outbreak at the high school, according to Gering Public Schools spokeswomen Jennifer Sibal.

In response, Gering Public Schools temporarily ended the “opt-out” policy for masks inside its high school and on school buses. Administrators also postponed the Homecoming dance until Oct. 17.

As of Sept. 22, Gering lists four active cases of COVID-19. All four cases were among staff or students from the high school, according to GPS’s dashboard.

The quarantine orders did not come from the district. Instead, quarantine orders are issued by the Panhandle Public Health Department, according to a letter sent to parents about the outbreak.

The letter also said that absent alerts sent to parents whose students are under quarantine should be disregarded.

“Due to the large number of students impacted, we ask for your patience as these excused absences are added to the system. Public health officials will provide GHS administration with the official list of quarantines,” the letter read.

Alliance Public Schools has also seen COVID-19 affect extracurricular activities after an increase in cases in that community.

The Alliance Bulldogs varsity football game scheduled for Sept. 19 was canceled after members of the football team were put under quarantine orders, according to Alliance Public Schools Superintendent Troy Unzicker.

Administrators called off the game after a student tested positive and several football players had close contact with that student, Unzicker said.

He said the district doesn’t need to change any of its policies regarding COVID-19. Over the summer, the district opted to recommend mask-wearing if social distancing couldn’t be maintained. Other Panhandle districts made masks a requirement.

“I think the plan right now is to play Friday, but they have a week to practice and put some new kids in positions,” Unzicker said.

Alliance is scheduled to play in Gering on Friday.

As of Sept. 22, the Alliance High School has 67 staff or students under isolation, according to the district’s dashboard. The district’s had five cases across its buildings and a total of 94 quarantines since school started.

“I know a bunch of those are coming off (of isolation) next week,” Unzicker said.

In a news conference on Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts said that students wearing masks in a classroom that had a sick student had to self-monitor for symptoms — but the class did not have to quarantine. However, that only applies if the sick student had been wearing a mask. The sick student does have to isolate.

“If either party is unmasked, then they are going to have to quarantine,” Ricketts said.

The new round of Directed Health Measures issued Friday also stipulated that those in quarantine must isolate for at least 10 days, have no symptoms and have no fever.

Neighboring Scottsbluff Public Schools has had nine confirmed cases and 113 quarantines across its buildings. According to SBPS’s COVID-19 dashboard, all nine cases have recovered. Of the 113 quarantines, 56 have returned from their isolation.

An increase in cases in Box Butte has also lead to other effects in the community, with the Alliance library announcing closures last week due to COVID-19 exposure. On Tuesday, library staff notified the public that the library would remain closed, planning to reopen Oct. 1.

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