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Delayed answers from government could lead to quarantine cancellations

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

Records show that the Johnson County School System has significantly higher quarantine rates than the surrounding areas. Recent reports show about 16 percent of students in quarantine, several of which are repeating the process for the second, third, or even fourth time within recent months. In a presentation to the board, Nurse Practitioner and School Nurse Wendy Henley announced that 115 students were in quarantine in the period between October 8 and November 9 and that number jumped to 182 by November 12.
The higher rates make sense considering the recent surge of Covid-19 in the county. The Tennessee Department of Health cites Johnson County as the worst per 100,000 cases within the state. Henley explained that officials expected a surge
because of Fall Break but most likely did not expect it to this extent.
Several parents approached the Johnson County School Board to request quarantine rules be changed once again. Despite several months of parents asking, officials report that this is not in their control. Until now, the state government and health department have set these rules, and a lack of a decision relatively quickly could lead to a cancellation of all quarantines, according to Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox. Legislation putting the decision officially into state hands was set to take place within days of the November 11 meeting and did so in a special session the following night.
This COVID legislation signed by Governor Bill
Lee, among many other things, limits government, school, and business rights
on what they can require per the pandemic and gave exclusive control to the
Commissioner of Health on quarantine rules officially passed on Friday, November 12. At the time of this article, it is unclear whether the
commissioner has released these guidelines to local officials.
“This is what guidance we’ve received so far,” Simcox explained during
the school board meeting. “When it comes to the quarantine, the Commissioner of Health has the sole authority to determine the quarantine guideline. So the Commissioner of Health has to let us know what our quarantine guidelines are after this bill goes into effect.”
The Johnson County School Board meets on the second Thursday of each month at 6 pm at Central Office. All meetings are
live-streamed and available for immediate or delayed watch on the Johnson County Schools TN Video YouTube channel.