“We are on fire from COVID right now,” SC educators adapt to omicron surge

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 7:14 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2022 at 9:51 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The state health department is looking to combat staffing shortages in schools with new quarantine guidance, as educators describe the stresses of teaching during the omicron surge.

“We are on fire from COVID right now, and I am not sure what we can do in the midst of this surge to back it up at this point, South Carolina Education Association President and Long-Time Educator Sherry East says.

Under DHEC’s new guidance, teachers and staff who are not maximally vaccinated (up to date) and exposed to COVID but have no symptoms do not need to quarantine as long as they have a negative test on day five after exposure. They then need to wear a mask for ten days after exposure.

The updates apply to teachers and school staff when the school is in a “crisis staffing condition.” DHEC says the action is being taken to alleviate school staff shortages in communities with significant outbreaks.

“We have to make sure we have enough adults to cover the students that are there, and at this time we do not,” East says.

School districts around the state are having to go to extremes to fill the gaps in the classroom.

“We’re at the point of, anybody with a pulse in some school districts is asking to come in and sub,” SC for Ed Research Director and English Teacher Steve Nuzum says.

“I served lunch last week because we didn’t have enough cafeteria workers on staff, and I’ve been cleaning the classroom or we’ve seen custodians that are serving as substitutes right now because we just are scrambling to make sure we have enough adults to cover our classes,” East says.

In addition to the new guidance, DHEC is also encouraging South Carolinians to get maximally vaccinated, which includes an initial vaccine series and a booster shot.

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