North Carolina COVID Clusters in Schools Jump by 62 Percent as State Battles Delta Surge

The academic year has only recently gotten underway in North Carolina, but the state is already reporting a massive rise in COVID clusters in K-12 schools.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' (NCDHHS) latest weekly cluster report, released on Tuesday, reported 73 active clusters in K-12 schools across the state. The figure represents a 62 percent increase in clusters since last week, according to WTVD.

The most cluster-related cases in the state are at Union Academy Charter School, which has 107 cases—13 staff members and 94 students, according to the report.

The state also reported 38 clusters in childcare settings, which represents a 3 percent rise from last week.

In a childcare or school setting, the state defines a cluster as five or more cases identified through a positive molecular (PCR) or positive antigen test result within a 14-day period that are plausibly linked.

A report from the NCDHHS on Monday said cases associated with clusters in K-12 settings had increased significantly in August and were at the highest level since the pandemic began during the week of August 15. Cases associated with clusters in childcare settings had also increased each week over the past four weeks, the report said.

COVID outbreaks have been reported in schools across the country as children and teenagers returned to in-person learning amid a surge in infections fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant.

On Monday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a a wide-ranging coronavirus bill for schools into law that allows schools to shift to remote learning if necessary due to a COVID emergency.

Shifting to Remote Learning

The bill states that school districts will now have the authority to make day-to-day decisions for the 2021-22 school year about shifting in-person schools or classrooms to temporary remote instruction if necessary "due to COVID-19 exposures that result in insufficient school personnel or required student quarantines."

The bill says a public school unit will need to report any shift to the Department of Public Instruction within 72 hours of the shift and shall return to in-person instruction as soon as personnel are available or the required quarantines are complete.

The new law also requires school boards that mandate masking to "vote at least once a month on whether the face covering policy should be modified."

The state reported 5,351 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with 3,612 people hospitalized.

According to the NCDHHS, 65 percent of North Carolina's adult population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with 60 percent fully vaccinated.

Stock photo classroom
A file photo of a classroom. North Carolina has seen a sharp rise in COVID clusters in K-12 schools over the past week. iStock