Less than a week after the Bulloch County Board of Education voted unanimously to halt the practice of quarantining students and teachers if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 under certain circumstances, a state bureaucrat is positioning to trump the local action.
The Bulloch BOE legal counsel reportedly received a letter from the legal counsel for the Georgia Department of Public Health and its commissioner. The official correspondence from the state makes no mention of legal counsel from the state, only the Commissioner who calls on the BOE to reverse the previous decision, but the letter was forwarded to BOE members by Superintendent Charles Wilson, in which he said the legal counsel for the school system was contacted by the legal counsel by DPH.
An October 13 letter from Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of DPH and the State Health Officer, says she became aware of the BOE’s October 8 decision to eliminate the quarantine period for students and teachers in the school district. The unanimous decision by the Board to “reconsider the Department of Public Health guidelines, and if a student is exposed to a COVID-19 positive person, if the student that is exposed is wearing a mask, and it has been documented, they do not have to follow those guidelines of quarantining for 14 days,” is a point of contention for the state health department.
The purpose of the letter addressed to Chairman Mike Sparks is stated to inform the district that the action ‘is out of compliance with guidance issued from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health, ‘as well as the legal requirements of an order signed by Toomey – the 8th Amended Administrative Order for Public Health Control Measures, which took effect on July 28, 2020.
The July 28th Administrative Order under DPH, however, has not previously been published, distributed, or otherwise made available for school systems or public consumption.
Toomey also stated in the letter that failure to comply would be a misdemeanor offense, citing OCGA 31-5-8 which pertains to the person who refuses to isolate or quarantined – not the governing body regulating the quarantine. But the October 13 letter is signed by Toomey and appears to misstate the legal authority of the BOE to enforce that an individual remain in their home. Even if the BOE were to reinstate the measures for quarantine, it would have no authority to make sure people do not leave their homes or designated location.
You can read both documents below. Story continues below.DPH Letter to BCS 101320
Superintendent Charles Wilson’s letter to the Board on October 14th is as follows:
Board Members,Attached for your reference are two items. One is a letter that was sent from DPH Commissioner Toomey to BCS BOE Chairman Sparks on October 13th. The other is the standing GaDPH Administrative Order dated July 28th. Dr. Toomey’s letter to Chairman Sparks was sent via DPH legal counsel to our legal counsel.After talking with legal counsel about this and then further discussing the matter with Chairman Sparks and Vice-chairman Mims, I am informing you of the following so that you are aware of what is happening.As the letter states, the board is requested to immediately rescind its October 8th action to eliminate quarantine requirements. Legal counsel recommends that we adhere to this request. It is my understanding that we will take this matter up for decision at our next scheduled meeting, which is on October 22nd.Effective today, I will inform school administrators and nurses that we are temporarily suspending further implementation of the board’s action related to the exemption of quarantining students, as already interpreted and communicated, until the board is able to meet and decide upon further action and consult with legal counsel. However, we will not be telling students who have already been told that they can return to school that they must re-quarantine as a result of this temporary action.As a follow up to this, I will ask Hayley Greene to be proactive in our communication to employees, parents, and the public. It has been brought to our attention that the news media has been provided copies of the DPH’s letter to us by the DPH. We expect full media attention on this matter.I have asked legal counsel to provide us with written guidance on this matter so that all of you have the same information that has been shared with me.Chairman Sparks has asked that board member questions and concerns be directed to him.Thank you,Charles
Department of Public Health requests immediate recension of action regarding quarantines
At its scheduled regular session on October 8, the Board unanimously approved a motion from District 4 Board Member April Newkirk to “reconsider the Department of Public Health guidelines, and if a student is exposed to a COVID-19 positive person, if the student that is exposed is wearing a mask, and it has been documented, they do not have to follow those guidelines of quarantining for 14 days.”