A Covid-19 outbreak sweeping through a small West Texas town has shut down businesses and forced staff and students in its school district to quarantine for at least two weeks.
Students had returned to classrooms in Iraan, Texas, for only a week when they were told their schools would have to be closed because of a Covid outbreak, said Tracy Canter, superintendent of the Iraan-Sheffield Independent School District, in a letter to the community posted on the district's Facebook page.
A leadership team “made the determination that we will need to quarantine for the next two weeks. This decision was made to ensure the safety of our students and staff; as well as to make certain that we have appropriate staff available for each campus,” the letter dated Aug. 16 said.
“We know that this is difficult for everyone involved and we thank you for your support and patience during this unprecedented time,” Canter said in the letter.
Canter, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, did not say in the letter how many people had tested positive for Covid. But she encouraged everyone to take the quarantine seriously.
"This means that students and staff will quarantine only with immediate family," she said. "They should not be out and about in the community or hanging out with friends. The only way that this will work is if everyone does their part."
Canter said that before the shutdown 23 percent of the district's staff was out because they had either tested positive for or been exposed to Covid, The Texas Tribune reported. About 17 percent of students were also out for the same reasons. The numbers were higher than the district saw all of last year, the Tribune reported.
The surge has also forced businesses in Iraan to shut down, USA Today reported. According to Iraan General Hospital CEO Jason Rybolt, 119 people were tested for the virus and 50 tested positive during two weeks this month, the report said.
The hospital in Iraan has only 14 beds, and it does not provide critical care services, according to The Texas Tribune.
The rolling seven-day average of daily new cases in Texas was 16,000 last week, compared with 1,495 on June 30, according to Johns Hopkins University research data. In that time, Texas Covid-19 hospitalizations had reached levels not seen since late January, state health officials reported.
As of last week, at least three other school districts in Texas have had to close campuses because of Covid-19.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, tested positive for Covid-19, a spokesman said.
Abbott issued an executive order last month banning vaccination and mask mandates despite pushback from local officials and school districts. Some districts defied orders, including Harris and Tarrant counties, two of the state’s most populous. Abbott's order was upheld by the state Supreme Court.
In a separate ruling by the court, schools were allowed to continue requiring masks while the legal battle between Abbott and local officials got sorted out.