Kent Co. advises high schools to stay virtual through mid-January

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With no slowing in the spread of coronavirus in Kent County, local health officials on Friday issued a warning and strong guidelines meant to help flatten the curve.

Among the guidance was advice to local school districts to keep high school learning virtual through Jan. 15, well past the three weeks currently mandated by the state. This request comes, in part, because high schoolers are generally better prepared to learn in a remote format.

“That gives a 14-day buffer after the holiday,” said Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Adam London. “So essentially, that’s creating a quarantine period for those students before they come back into the school setting.”

Schools that are keeping younger students in the classroom are reminded to ensure they’re making sure the kids are wearing masks and maintaining 6-foot social distancing. Parents shouldn’t let their kids of any age gather with friends outside of school.

“We are putting out a call for help to our community,” London said. “To do all of the things they can within their ability to make it difficult for this virus to spread.”

London cited recent daily cases counts of more than 650 and a testing positivity rate of 15%, five times higher than the 3% than public health officials view as a threshold for controlled community spread. Local hospitals are seeing rising inpatient numbers and project they could double in the next two weeks.

The huge number of cases, public health officials say, are slowing the contact tracing, and that in turn means some people who have been exposed are not in quarantine and may be exposing others without knowing it.

Echoing guidance from the state, the local health department is also telling people not to hold Thanksgiving gatherings with multiple households.

Churches are advised not to have any large gatherings. About 60 local churches promised earlier this week that they wouldn’t.

London says the next 60 days, with festive events and cold weather coming, will be a true test of what our community’s capable of.

“We do strongly recommend people adhere to this so we can beat this, save lives and shorten the time period that we’re all suffering,” said London.

London said a plan is already being put together for when a coronavirus vaccine is ready to distribute.

“We are working with the state and with other partners here, locally, to make sure as soon as a vaccine is available, that we’re prepared to receive it and distribute it in a phased approach,” he said.

That phased approach starts with health care workers, first responders and the more vulnerable populations.