Pandemic fatigue: Centerville schools take full week off for Thanksgiving

By: - November 17, 2021 5:10 pm

The omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Minnesota. (Image via via Pxhere.com)

The state’s overall coronavirus infection rate is on the rise again as Thanksgiving approaches, according to the latest state data, and a southern Iowa school district decided it’s time for a break.

Well, a longer break than it initially planned.

The Centerville Community School District and its more than 1,200 students will have no class all of next week. The original calendar had classes on Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s a little uncommon for us to do this, but we’re in uncommon times,” said Tom Rubel, the superintendent of the district. “It’s just to give everybody a chance to reenergize, take a deep breath.”

The district is located in Appanoose County, which has had a persistently elevated infection rate since late August, with more than 50 new confirmed cases each week. Children accounted for 26% of those cases in the past week.

School districts have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. They were ordered to close for the final months of the 2019-2020 school year after the virus first emerged. They wrestled with in-person, online and hybrid classes and whether to require masks the following school year. Now there are widespread staff shortages that have forced some schools to cancel classes or adjust their bus routes for a lack of drivers.

“It’s really been quite a challenge for a lot of people to work their way through this and maintain a certain degree of consistency for students,” Rubel said.

The state’s two-week infection rate continues to slowly rise this month after falling most of October, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s weekly update on Wednesday. The department reported about 9,100 new infections for the past week.

Some good news: Dubuque County’s infection rate appeared to plateau this past week after doubling in recent weeks. The county had about 600 new cases in the past week.

Some concerning news: Decatur County’s infection rate reached a new peak that eclipsed its previous high a year ago. The county had 104 new cases in the past two weeks, compared with the previous high mark of 98, according to state data.

“I think all the counties around us are exploding right now,” said Terre Acheson, assistant administrator of public health for Decatur County, which lies on the state’s border with Missouri. “People are just tired of the government telling them what to do. They’re going to do what they want to do.”

Decatur has the second-lowest vaccination rate of Iowa counties. About 37% of its residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Johnson County’s vaccination rate is highest at 65%.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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