MURRAY – Recent COVID reports sent by the Calloway County Health Department have indicated an increase in cases under the age of 18. 

On Nov. 1, the Murray Independent School District, as well as Calloway County School District, had made masks optional for students and staff. Since this time, the reports of younger people contracting COVID have increased. Last month, between Oct. 15-29, there were only four reported cases under the age of 18, and between Oct 30-Nov 18, that number has increased to 32 reported cases.

“When you have two people without masks, you are taking away a layer of mitigation,” said Director of Public Health Jamie Hughes. “So, in the classroom setting, which is where we want kids to be, when that mask comes off, it increases the chances that an individual can contract COVID.”

Hughes explained that the way the school’s system is set up is that if the incident rate was below 15% for 10 days, schools have made masks optional.

“We’ve been playing in that 15% range,” Hughes said. “It’s been up and down.”

As of yesterday, he said that Calloway County is in the orange zone for cases, but the county has seen a lower number of cases than in the past. 

“We’ve seen a small pickup,” Hughes said. “But anytime you remove the mask you increase your chance, that’s just what is going to happen.”

Other factors, besides making masks optional, could be the cause for the increase.

“(Increases) can happen for many reasons,” Hughes said. “If you go back, you have Fall Break, then Halloween and then you have Thanksgiving and all of these  increase the number of individuals that are together. And, of course masking, fewer people are doing that, so you have the increase. It’s not just school systems, you can go anywhere and see that which increases the chance for the virus to spread.”