MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama schools reported more than 9,195 virus cases in students and staff in the past week, a surge that has caused more schools to make a temporary switch to remote learning.
A state dashboard was updated Friday with information from 84 of the 143 school districts. Superintendent Eric Mackey first disclosed the number during an event Thursday with the Medical Association in Alabama.
Mackey said the statewide spike in COVID-19 cases — fueled by the highly contagious delta variant — came at the same time schools were opening for the academic year.
“We had dozens of students sent home on the first day of school, and then more and more,” Mackey said. “Now we have scores of campuses that are closed to in-person instruction.”
Mackey said schools are trying, if possible, to avoid closing for long periods of time. He said upcoming standardized test results, which have not yet been released to the public, will show scores took a hit last year when schools closed to in-person instruction.
“They are going to be significantly down across the board,” he said. “That’s what we expected. It’s what we predicted, and we hope that we can turn that around this year.”
Over the last four weeks, people aged 5 to 17 accounted for 21% of all virus cases in Alabama, even though they constitute 16% of the population.
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has not set statewide mask orders, instead leaving the decision to local school boards. Mackey estimated that 90% of Alabama school systems are requiring masks.
Students at Bessemer City High School walked out of classes Thursday in a protest over virus precautions, news outlets reported.
“Until the numbers down and they get this under control, I think it’s imperative that they go back to virtual,” Kenyatta Watkins, the mother of two students at the school, told WBRC-TV.