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Several Ky. school districts closing due to spike in influenza cases

Kentucky School Boards Association

At least 14 of Kentucky’s 171 school districts announced they’ll be closed or having non-traditional instruction in the coming days due to a high number of influenza cases.

Several western Kentucky school systems – including McCracken, Crittenden and Ballard – are among the closures. McCracken is expected to resume session on Nov. 9, Crittenden on Nov. 8 and Ballard on Nov. 7. Other county school districts that have closed or moved to NTI due to illness during November include Clark, Fleming, Madison, Owen, Powell, Wayne and Wolfe. The Berea, Jackson, Paris and Williamstown school districts in central and eastern Kentucky have also closed due to illness.

Kent Koster is the director for the Purchase District Health Department – which monitors public health in five far western Kentucky counties, including McCracken and Ballard. He says the common flu is expected to increase in the coming weeks and that it's possible people's immune systems have weakened after multiple winters of wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since COVID cases have gone down and we are no longer required to wear masks we can only expect flu cases to go up,” Koster said.

Koster says COVID-19, influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are affecting school districts the most.

A recent New York Times report said some health experts have warned about the possibility of a “tripledemic” as a winter rise in COVID cases appears could mix with a resurgent uptick in the flu and RSV. Evolutionary microbiologist Andrew Read works at Penn State University.

“You’ve got this waning Covid immunity, coinciding with the impact of the flu coming along here, and R.S.V.,” Read told the New York Times. “We’re in uncharted territory here.”

Health experts told Reuters earlier this year that part of this uptick in flu and RSV cases is “due to the relaxation of COVID-precautions, such as masking and social distancing,” both of which contributed to reduced rates of the diseases during the pandemic.

A Thursday post from McCracken County Public Schools noted that student and staff attendance rates had “declined each day this week due to confirmed flu cases and flu-like symptoms.” This came a day after WPSD Local 6 reported that 18% of the system’s students were out sick.

Ballard County Schools were closed Thursday after the district reported their staff and student attendance had dipped below 70% due to illness.

Crittenden County Public Schools’ administration in a Thursday social media post wished their sick staff and students a speedy recovery: “We hope our Rockets are feeling better soon and look forward to seeing everyone back on Tuesday.”

Mason Galemore is a Murray State student studying journalism. He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Since then has explored different publication avenues such as broadcasting. He hopes to travel as a journalist documenting conflict zones and different cultures. He remembers watching the Arab Spring in 2011 via the news when he was a kid, which dawned in a new age of journalism grounded in social media. His favorite hobbies are hiking, photography, reading, writing and playing with his Australian Shepard, Izzy. He is originally from Charleston, Missouri.
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