Western Nebraska School District Issues Mask Mandate After 25 Student COVID-19 Exposures

Oct. 30, 2020, 4:25 p.m. ·

(Photo Courtesy Hemingford Public Schools)

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Hemingford Public Schools in Box Butte County issued a mask mandate Tuesday after 25 students were quarantined for COVID-19, with five positive tests. All of those cases are now recovered.

Hemingford Public Schools Superintendent Charles Isom said the district considered a mask mandate after fall break in mid-October, when schools had only one case of COVID-19 from a staff member that did not cause exposure.

"We ended up holding off a week before we implemented and that's when we had the exposures at school," Isom said. "If I'd implemented right after fall break, we wouldn't have the kids [test] positive."

Over fall break, Isom said five students were exposed through family while the remaining 20 were later exposed on school grounds.

"We had a high school student test positive that ended up quarantining 10 other students, and the student that was positive wasn't wearing a mask," Isom said.

Isom said another incident of no mask wearing exposed nine elementary students. After that, he said more students started to wear them at school, and the district changed their lunch-time procedures to limit interactions between age groups.

With statewide cases breaking records three times this week, he hopes the school will be able to operate without any major blow ups after Thanksgiving.