MONROE — Union County Public Health (Public Health) Director Dennis Joyner wrote an open letter to Union County Public Schools (UCPS) explaining why he believes that 14 days of quarantine is the optimal way to reduce spreading COVID-19.

The letter was published to the Union County Government website on Friday (Sept. 10) and can be found at https://www.unioncountync.gov/news/coronavirus-what-you-need-know.

The letter states that although Joyner and his staff meet with UCPS staff weekly (and sometimes daily), the Board of Education requested additional written guidance from Union County Public Health to assist in overseeing school health safety, education and operation environment due to pandemic-related issues affecting education, according to the letter. Joyner, his staff and UCPS staff have been holding regular meetings for the past 18 months. Joyner stated that he knew UCPS staff conveyed his advice and guidance to the Board of Education.

“As the Union County Public Health Director, I continue to hold the view that a 14-day quarantine period is the best, safest option to control the spread of COVID-19 in schools based on all the data available to us,” Joyner wrote. Because masks are not mandated, quarantine is the best solution, he further explained, adding that “fewer than 5% of North Carolina students are under face mask mandates.”

Joyner wrote that following a review of current data and after speaking to health officials on the state level: “I have determined that because the risks of a person developing COVID-19 illness after day 10 of quarantine drop significantly, the risk of a person returning to the classroom after a shorter quarantine period are comparable to the risks of that person working or attending school in a mask-optional setting. As a result, if you select a different quarantine period from the options available to you, I do not object, so long as you follow the quarantine guidance listed in the Toolkit.”

Joyner also said he recognizes that a 14-day quarantine period can “impose personal burdens that affect the physical and mental health of persons quarantined ...”

In the letter, he corrected a misconception about quarantines, “…no child or staff member in the UCPS system has received a formal isolation or quarantine order from me or my office during the current academic year … The decisions to exclude ill or impactfully exposed students from school have ultimately been made solely by UCPS, based on the Toolkit guidance, with my agreement and support.”

The Toolkit Joyner refers to is the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit which provides school districts with prevention strategies based on uo-to-date COVID-19 trends and updated CDC guidelines. He describes guidance in the Toolkit to be “sound” which he says he has “consistently recommended adopting all or nearly all of the prevention strategies” in the Toolkit.

“While the Board of Education has elected to follow some of the guidelines in the Toolkit, the Board is not utilizing all of the strategies which could be selected to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and help keep children and staff safe in the school environment,” he wrote.

Joyner concluded by saying he will continue to be a resource for UCPS and to the public on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

NOTE: See related story on the Union County Board of Education’s virtual meeting on Monday (Sept. 13) at enquirerjournal.com or the Sept. 14 print edition of The E-J.