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Mother pleads with Hamblen Co. educators to protect children after first-grader contracts COVID-19

More than 350 students have tested positive for COVID-19, and one mother is pleading for educators to protect students as her family enters quarantine.

HAMBLEN COUNTY, Tenn — Three weeks after the first day of school, the Hamblen County School District has reported more than 350 cases of COVID-19. One family has also entered quarantine after a student who was too young to be vaccinated contracted the coronavirus.

Lydia Drew said that all three of her children are now quarantining and one of them is sick. They are staying home from school, while she stays home from work to prevent spreading COVID-19. 

"Now, to get the rest of us tested, we went back to the walk-in clinic and spent 5 hours there," she said.

Drew feels that that district leadership is dropping the ball and said that something needs to change.

"Our children, who at this point cannot receive the vaccine, are being put in a situation where they are not being cared for," Drew said.

She said that she wants her district leaders to follow the science and the direction of health experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mask-wearing in schools and said all eligible people should get vaccinated.

"Listen to our health care providers and what they are saying," she said. "They are saying that this virus is attacking school-aged children. So we must follow the CDC guidelines."

Education leaders with the district said they feel their hands are tied by the state. They have taken action this year by sending an entire grade home for virtual learning after mass exposure to the virus.

Drew said future situations like that could be prevented if they followed basic recommendations from doctors.

"They've completely washed their hands of any responsibility whatsoever," she said. "No masking, no temperature checks, no social distancing, and full capacity sports."

Now the family is waiting for more test results to see if they have COVID-19. Drew said they are hoping for more negative tests and that 6-year-old Eylan is only experiencing mild symptoms.

Some other school districts across the state have established mask mandates and contact tracing efforts, but an executive from Governor Bill Lee requires schools to give parents the option to opt-out of mask mandates.