COVID-19 cases on the rise in Okfuskee County
Two local school districts close classrooms, shift to distance learning
By Ken Childers
A surge in COVID-19 cases in Okfuskee County has caused two local schools to implement distance learning for a two-week period.
Mason Public Schools and Paden Public Schools announced last week that classrooms would be closed effective Oct. 19, the day students were to return to campus from Fall Break, until Nov. 2. All students have been shifted to online learning platforms and all extracurricular activities are suspended at both campuses until they reopen.
In a letter dated Oct. 14, Paden Superintendent Michelle Stiles said the district had experienced “numerous” positive COVID-19 cases in recent days, and both staff members and students had been affected.
“We have been in touch with the county heath department for several days, and at this time, the state epidemiologist is considering the town of Paden as a site of ‘elevated risks and is recommending that we close school for the time being, rather than going back to in-person learning after fall break,” Stiles wrote.
On Oct. 16, Mason Public Schools, located 21 miles north and east of Paden, announced that a student or staff member had tested positive and the district was implementing its COVID-19 protocol immediately.
“If a student or staff member has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the district will conduct contact tracing with the cooperation of the Okfuskee County Health Department and institute a quarantine for those students or staff for a period of 14 days,” Superintendent Alfred Gaches stated in a letter. “However, due to the large number of students and staff affected by the quarantine, I have decided to transition Mason Schools to distance learning for a period of two weeks.”
On Tuesday, the ODSH reported a total of 123 active cases for Okfuskee County, including 53 in Boley, four in Castle, 25 in Okemah, 28 in Paden and 13 in Weleetka. Six deaths have also been reported to date, including two in Boley, three in Okemah and one in Weleetka.
Health officials say those at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include older adults who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, liver disease, chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, and severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher). People with asthma, HIV and who are immunocompromised are also at high risk. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.