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This mask-optional school district leads Charlotte region in COVID-19 clusters

The latest NCDHHS report on COVID-19 transmission in schools shows UCPS, a mask-optional district, with the most clusters in the Charlotte area.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Out of the entire Charlotte region, Union County Public Schools is reporting the most schools with COVID-19 clusters, according to a new report from North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services.

In the report, NCDHHS notes 13 schools in Union County are being monitored for clusters affecting students and staff, and when factoring out non-UCPS schools on the list, the total comes to 10.

A cluster is defined as at least five linked cases of COVID-19, tied to the same setting and within a set period of time, according to NCDHHS.

Union County Public Schools is one of the few districts in North Carolina not implementing mandatory masking in the classroom. It had also recently come under fire from the county health director for not providing robust contact tracing information. Last Friday, Dennis Joyner, the county health director, penned a letter to the district's superintendent, citing "scant information" coming from the district regarding contact tracing, which was "insufficient... to protect students and the public." 

Wednesday, UCPS and the Union County Health Department announced they had come to an agreement on how the district should properly identify and exclude students and staff who have been exposed to the virus.

UCPS released a statement announcing the joint signing of a memorandum of understanding, writing in part, "We share a unified goal to protect students, families, and the broader Union County community and look forward to our work together."

The Charlotte-area district with the second-most schools tracking clusters was Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, at nine schools. However, when adjusting the CMS and the UCPS cluster counts for district size, UCPS pulls ahead.

With 176 total schools in CMS and 53 total schools in UCPS, the current cluster rate is 5% for CMS and 19% for UCPS.

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