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Local control is key

Flexibility isn’t something that’s easy to come by these days. Due to the ongoing pandemic, many of us feel constrained, both by the danger of exposure and by the rules and recommendations that government and health officials have put in place.

But a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work very well in most scenarios, and dealing with COVID-19 is no exception. This new coronavirus presents different levels of danger to different individuals and groups, and it spreads much more easily in some settings than others. The past week presented some good examples of that in Eastern Ohio.

First, on Tuesday, we learned that a person associated with the K-12 school in Beallsville had tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing by the Monroe County Health Department quickly determined that a large number of people affiliated with the school had been exposed to that individual and would need to quarantine for several days to ensure they wouldn’t continue to spread the virus.

As a result, a decision was made to temporarily close the school building and shift the entire student body to remote learning.

Later, on Wednesday, it was announced that a student at Leona Middle School in Shadyside also tested positive for the virus. The Belmont County Health Department determined that 18 people who had been in close contact with that individual would need to self-quarantine. In this case, though, it was decided that the school which serves 215 students would remain open for in-person classes.

“We’re going to remain open,” Shadyside Superintendent John Haswell told our reporter. “We sanitize daily and nightly. We don’t have to close to deep clean, we deep clean every night, so we’re just going to monitor the situation real close.”

He added that the district is prepared to take additional steps for safety if the situation warrants them.

“If we get more positive cases in the future, we’ll have to reevaluate, but right now it’s just one,” he said.

Having the flexibility to make decisions based on their individual situations, with guidance from local health officials, allowed each of these school districts to do what educators believe is best for their students. Although each school experienced just one positive case of the illness, their circumstances were different, and their leaders decided on two different approaches to the concern.

Such local control is key to ensuring that each of our communities can handle this unfolding crisis in the best ways that they can. Government and health authorities should ensure that such flexibility is permitted moving forward, so long as infection rates do not rage out of control.

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