First COVID-19 Deaths in Dade County; Small Schools Adjust

by James McNary, Articles Editor

Dade County has had its first confirmed deaths from COVID-19 last week and over the past weekend. Outbreaks of the Coronavirus-caused illness have also occurred recently in the Greenfield, Lockwood, and Immanuel Lutheran Schools.

“We are sad to report our first deaths in Dade County. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families at this time,” said Pamela Allen, administrator of the Dade County Health Department.

Also last week, the Lawrence County Health Department confirmed another 9 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total to 15 deaths in that jurisdiction. A confirmed positive test result in a teacher at Round Grove Christian Academy required that school to begin remote instruction for half its students as teachers in the upper grades had to quarantine.

In a statement, the LCHD confirmed that these most recent fatalities were associated with individuals in long-term care that had underlying health conditions further complicated by COVID-19.
“These announcements are always difficult to make and we send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of these loved ones,” said Tana Bradshaw, a health educator with the LCHD.

Allen said that Dade County residents need to continue working together to keep the number of COVID-19 cases low and to contain any spread. She credits the fact the county’s schools are requiring potentially exposed individuals to quarantine as soon as there’s a positive test result in their system with aiding in containment.

“I know some people don’t like it, but it’s saving the community from a wider outbreak,” said Allen. “The nursing homes are working hard to contain exposures as well.”

In Lawrence County, some information had begun circulating about the most resent deaths prior to the official confirmation, and the LCHD statement wished to clarify the reason for the delay.

“Please understand it is never our intention to keep this information secret,” said Bradshaw. “We have specific procedures in place we have to follow to ensure everything is done properly and it can cause a delay.”

Among schools having positive cases, the Round Grove Christian school in the Round Grove community northwest of Miller has had a positive test result for a teacher in the upper grades followed by a positive result in another individual. The administration decided the best course of action would be for all students in fourth grade and above to begin remote instruction as of last Tuesday, due to the way classes are configured.

“We have 39 students in virtual instruction and 40 remaining in-person right now,” said RGCA Administrator Lori Bowles.

At Immanuel Lutheran School in Lockwood, elements of the re-entry plan adopted by the school’s board earlier this year have been implemented as COVID-19 has affected the school. ILS Principal Jamie Eggerman said that the Dade County Health Department has gone above and beyond in communicating with the school regarding the situation.
“Our teachers and staff have been flexible and working diligently to make sure everything is flowing smoothly. Families have been amazingly flexible and understanding about everything,” said Eggerman. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

Dade County has had, as of 10 p.m., Oct. 8, 107 tests performed, with 32 active cases of COVID-19, 75 cases recovered, with two individuals still hospitalized with the illness and one individual deceased.

Lawrence County currently has 125 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in isolation, with a total of 838 confirmed cases since the pandemic began earlier this year. The LCHD wants to remind the public to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid further infections and potential deaths.

“I feel like even though it’s out there, we’re doing good to keep it contained,” said Allen, of the DCHD. “People have to allow 14 days of quarantine to ensure containment of the spread.”

“We ask the public not to forget we are still in the midst of a pandemic and to continue taking precautions,” said LCHD’s Bradshaw.