The Potlatch School Board this week voted to require students, staff and visitors to school facilities to wear face masks in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area.

Superintendent Janet Avery said about 70 students and staff are quarantining either because they have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of the disease, or they themselves are showing symptoms.

“Because of that, our board did adjust our COVID protocols to do a temporary face covering requirement for the next four weeks, basically until our next board meeting when we will reevaluate,” Avery said. “Then we are also reinstating, like we did last year, temperature checks.”

Avery said quarantined students in middle and high school are continuing to receive instruction through Google Classroom and elementary age students are receiving work from their teachers to complete at home to the extent feasible.

She said there are no plans to adjust school schedules or instructional methods at this time.

“That’s the whole reason we’re trying to mitigate with face coverings — so we don’t have to close the school, or change to a hybrid model or go remote,” she said.

Following the decision on Wednesday, the Potlatch Library closed through Friday, with plans to reopen next week so long as trends do not worsen.

“We serve a lot of young people, and we just don’t want to contribute to what seems to be kind of a mini-surge localized there in the Potlatch area,” Latah County Library District Director Chris Sokol said. “Next week, in Potlatch, we will be requiring patrons and visitors to the library to wear masks if they’re five years of age and older.”

Sokol noted the library has not lifted time limits for visitors — 15 minutes for those browsing the aisles, and 30 minutes for patrons using the library’s computers.

Public Health - Idaho North Central District reported one new COVID-19-related death on Friday, pushing the county’s total to 19 since the pandemic began. Public health officials said the latest fatality was a woman in her 80s.

The public health agency also reported 32 new positive cases of the disease Friday, which brings that total to 3,786.

New cases include seven people younger than 18, six men and two women between the ages of 18 and 29, one man and one woman in their 30s, two men and two women in their 40s, two men and two women in their 50s, a man in his 60s, three men and two women in their 70s and a woman in her 80s.

Whitman County Public Health reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, pushing its total to 5,055. Deaths in Whitman County remained unchanged at 55 and hospitalizations rose by four to 158.

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