Baldwin County Schools out Friday

Winter weather forces closure as Covid-related absences mount

By Allison Marlow
Posted 1/20/22

Baldwin County Schools will be closed Friday, Jan. 21.

Superintendent Eddie Tyler sent an email to parents shortly after schools released Thursday afternoon. In it he said the combination of a …

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Baldwin County Schools out Friday

Winter weather forces closure as Covid-related absences mount

Posted

Baldwin County Schools will be closed Friday, Jan. 21.

Superintendent Eddie Tyler sent an email to parents shortly after schools released Thursday afternoon. In it he said the combination of a possiblity of wintry weather and high number of absences forced the decision. 

The National Weather Service in Mobile is reporting increased chances of freezing rain icing roads overnight and into the hours that school buses take to the roads. Tyler said in the email that those conditions make "it incredibly difficult and dangerous to transport kids who depend on bus service, especially in the northern part of our county."

He added that more than 30 bus drivers are currently out of rotation due to illness leaving some drivers to run two and three routes each day. 

"I am very proud of our bus drivers who have been running double and triple routes. I am also proud of our administrators who have stepped up to drive in addition to their regular duties. While I appreciate them stepping up, these challenges are troubling when you add in bad weather and potentially dangerous roads," Tyler's email said. 

Gulf Shores City Schools released a statement on Facebook stating their schools will remain open and follow regular schedule on Friday.

“We do not expect the temperature to drop low enough for any icing of roads in Gulf Shores. We will continue to monitor the situation,” the statement read.

Absences at Baldwin County schools have skyrocketed since students returned from the holiday break. On Jan. 19 a total of 704 Covid-related absences were reported. These numbers include only students and staff members who reported a positive Covid test, symptoms or exposure. Officials said there are likely hundreds more asymptomatic cases across the school system. 

Tyler declined to reinstate a mask mandate upon the return to school in early January and again reiterated that the school system would leave mask wearing as a personal choice for families when students returned after a four day weekend on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In an email to parents on Monday, Tyler said that wearing masks plays a part in "supporting the greater community" and at the time there was no such emergency. 

Tyler's email read, "I believe we MUST take steps to help avoid disaster and catastrophe within our hospitals and protect our greater community from death but that is not what we are facing today. At this time, occupancy in our hospitals is about 50% of what it was in the summer during the Delta variant. Also, we have come a long way in immunization, supplies, education and preparation."

On Thursday the state set a new record for the number of pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Currently 100 children are hospitalized with COVID-19 including 15 in the ICU and 4 on ventilators. Infirmary Health, which operates North Baldwin Infirmary and Thomas Hospital in Baldwin County, does not release the number of pediatric patients. 

This week the Alabama Department of Public Health also announced an enormous increase in hospitalizations due to the virus. Since Jan. 1, more than 2,566 people have been hospitalized due to the virus. This is larger than the number of people hospitalized in early September as the Delta surge began to decline. 

Currently Alabama's hospitals are also operating with less ICU space. Five of the state's nine hospital regions are operating at less than 10% ICU capacity, including Mobile which has 7% of ICU beds available. 

On Monday, Alabama's positivity rate reached 43.6%, the highest it has ever been. In Baldwin County the positivity rate was 45% on Thursday, Jan. 20. 
Since Jan. 1, Baldwin County has reported 7,787 cases of COVID-19. That is more than half of all cases reported in 2020 when the county reported 14,084 cases. Baldwin County reported 26,467 cases in 2021. 
There have already been three Covid related deaths in Baldwin County in 2022 and 130 across the state. 
 

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