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As Warren County COVID-19 cases increase, hundreds of students request masking exemptions

This file photo shows Warren from WPSU's Our Town episode in 2013.
As of September 21, Warren County has reported 320 cases of COVID-19 so far this month.

Like many counties, Warren County is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases with the school year beginning this month. Close to 20% of new cases so far in September are among students in Warren County School District, where hundreds have been in quarantine.

Warren County had 18 COVID-19 cases in July. The number grew ten-fold in August to 176. As of Sept. 20, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported 320 cases in the county.

Warren County School District reported 50 students testing positive for COVID-19 as of Friday. But it’s not just the students with COVID who are missing school. Superintendent Amy Stewart said in an email that 434 students were denied entry to school for being close contacts.

That’s nearly as many as the number of students who have filed for exemptions to wearing masks in school, according to the Warren Times Observer newspaper.

Nearly one-tenth of the student body opted out of the state’s masking order after the school board decided on Sept. 13 to allow students and employees to do that without documentation from a medical professional.

The state Department of Education has said that process is not in compliance with the order. State House Health Committee Majority Chair Kathy Rapp from Warren County has asked for the order to be terminated.

Because of the increase in cases, Warren County has set up a testing site at the Israel Building of Warren State Hospital starting Sept. 21, the Times Observer reported. County officials said the site can process about 200 tests each day.

Min Xian reported at WPSU from 2016-2022.
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