More Than A Dozen People Who Attended Marvin Ridge High School Graduation Test Positive For Coronavirus

The Latest:

MONROE, N.C. (News Release) – Union County Public Health says 16 people who attended Marvin Ridge High School’s graduation ceremony have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release.

Union County Public Health is confirming two COVID-19 clusters that have been identified in the County and reported to NCDHHS (North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services) as of today, July 7, 2020.

Through case investigations, Public Health has identified 16 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 who attended the Marvin Ridge High School graduation. A portion of the individuals attended additional graduation-related gatherings not affiliated with Union County Public Schools, however the only common link among all of the positive individuals was the graduation ceremony. A second cluster has been identified at East Union Middle School involving five staff members who were working together.

COVID-19 transmission can occur 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, so there is the possibility of additional individuals who have not developed symptoms yet or who may be positive and asymptomatic. Individuals who attended the Marvin Ridge High School graduation, please follow the 3 Ws and take additional precautions when interacting with individuals from our vulnerable population. If attendees or someone in their home develops symptoms, seek out COVID-19 testing from your physician. To find additional testing opportunities in and around Union County, visit the Union County COVID-19 webpage. Contact with a positive COVID-19 individual is currently the highest transmission method within Union County, accounting for 43% of total cases as of July 7, 2020.

Public Health strongly encourages all individuals to follow the 3 Ws (wear a face covering, wait 6 feet from others and wash your hands often) and limit mass gatherings in order to prevent contracting COVID-19 and slow the spread of the virus. Slowing the spread will reduce the risk of overwhelming our healthcare system and reducing the opportunity of transmission to vulnerable populations.

For additional information on clusters and outbreaks, visit the NCDHHS Dashboard.

Original Story (Posted May 29, 2020):

MONROE, N.C. (AP) — A school board in North Carolina has voted to hold an in-person graduation ceremony for all its high schools that would be a violation of the state’s coronavirus safety orders.

The Union County Public Schools Board decided in a 5-4 vote Thursday to hold the ceremonies in an outdoor stadium where students would maintain social distancing, news outlets reported. But the ceremonies would still violate Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order limiting mass gatherings to 25 people in outdoor spaces.

Emergency Board of Education Meeting (May 28, 2020)

Emergency Board of Education Meeting (May 28, 2020)

Posted by Union County Public Schools on Thursday, May 28, 2020

“Obviously we have a terrible lack of leadership from the governor of our state,” Gary Sides, a school board member who issued the proposal, said. “We’re trying to fumble through and not deprive these kids of one of the most important events of their life.”

The board’s vote comes after students and parents held a protest outside Union County Public Schools Superintendent Andrew Houlihan’s home demanding an in-person ceremony.

Others who voted against the motion pushed back against the decision.

Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey made the following statement about the high school graduations on social media:

“Members of the Union County School Board are duly elected officials by the citizens of Union County. We respect and support their authority and will not interfere with any decision approved by the Board. “

A violation of the state order is a misdemeanor, and can be published by nearly two months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The fine would be about $11,000 if all the 11 high schools in the school district go ahead with the ceremonies, Union County Public Schools Board Chairperson Melissa Merrell said.

Another board member, Christina Helms, regarded the governor’s order as “ridiculous,” but noted following the guidelines will be “a good example for our students that you might not like the law but you need to obey it.”

Alternative graduation proposals included holding multiple ceremonies that fit under the restrictions in the governor’s order and moving the graduation ceremony to South Carolina, where larger groups are permitted. Specific arrangements, including dates for the graduation ceremonies, will be discussed when the school board meets again on Tuesday.