ROCK HILL, S.C. — After just two days of school, hundreds of South Carolina students in York County are in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, with over 100 students positive for the virus.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 71 Fort Mill students have tested positive for COVID-19 and an additional 243 are in quarantine, according to data from the school district.
The Fort Mill Schools COVID-19 dashboard includes a full breakdown of the cases and quarantines. Elementary schools have been impacted the most with 45 positive students and 180 in quarantine. In total, 11 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. A spokesperson for Fort Mill Schools told WCNC Charlotte the majority of the positive cases are from exposures prior to the start of school this week.
Gold Hill Elementary School has the most students in quarantine with 70, in addition to seven students who tested positive.
"When you hear those numbers outright, at first you might think, 'whoa, they had 71 cases in the first two days.' That's not exactly the correct context for it," said Joe Burke with the Fort Mill School District.
Burke said a large majority of the district's cases were from exposures before the first day but the district wasn't notified until the children missed class.
"Those students have not attended school yet," Burke said. "They will not come until they complete their process and complete their protocols."
In Rock Hill, the situation is similar. A total of 46 students have tested positive with 195 in quarantine. Twelve Rock Hill staff members have tested positive and 10 more are in quarantine.
Dutchman Creek Middle School and Northwestern High School each have six students positive for COVID-19. Rock Hill High School has three students who are positive but has the largest number of students in quarantine with 48 total.
Clover School District is reporting that 36 total students are positive for COVID-19. There are 82 total students actively in quarantine, according to the district's dashboard. Clover High School currently has 25 students in quarantine and 12 are currently positive for COVID-19.
On Tuesday, South Carolina State Superintendent Molly Spearman and State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell stressed the importance of masks. Under current state law, mask mandates are prohibited in South Carolina schools.
"We're better than this, we're smarter than this," Spearman said in asking for everyone to do their part to stop the spread of the virus. "Parents please listen to your doctors. Let's not listen to social media."
Gov. Henry McMaster is opposed to a mask mandate, saying the decision should be left up to parents. McMaster threatened any districts that try to implement a mask mandate could lose their funding.
Meanwhile, some school districts are already seeing problems with a return. The Pickens County School District already returned to temporary virtual learning after a high number of students had to be quarantined from close contact with kids who had the virus. And Kershaw County Schools had nearly 900 students in quarantine and over 140 who tested positive as of Tuesday morning.