Big bummer: Vaccination already scheduled, Johnson City 6th grader contracts COVID three weeks before 12th birthday

Local Coronavirus Coverage

Indian Trail Intermediate School sixth-grader Isaiah Scott contracted COVID a few weeks before his 12th birthday, when he has a vaccination appointment. His entire hall is now on a 14-day hiatus from the building due to high transmission.

Isaiah Scott part of entire hall that will be out 14 days from Indian Trail Intermediate School

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – When Isaiah Scott walked into his parents’ room Saturday morning complaining of a headache for the first time his mom could remember, “I knew immediately this was probably COVID,” Grete Scott said.

The family’s first clue had come Thursday. Isaiah brought home a letter from superintendent Steve Barnett letting Grete and her husband know a case of COVID had been reported in one of Isaiah’s classrooms on Indian Trail Intermediate School’s (ITIS) “Coyote 1” hall, where Isaiah is a student.

This letter went home to Grete Scott August 12 informing her a COVID-19 case had been reported in her son Isaiah’s classroom at Indian Trail Intermediate School.

The letter had the Scotts monitoring their oldest of three children for symptoms. Sure enough, just three weeks from Isaiah’s 12th birthday, right around the time he’s scheduled to receive his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the sixth-grader had COVID.

After getting a same-day positive result Saturday, “We spent the day trying to figure out whether we needed to quarantine him or isolate him,” Scott said. “We had forgotten all of the semantics about the difference.”

Now, Isaiah will have some natural antibodies to go with the vaccination protection Scott said the family is still planning to get for him as soon as recommended by the CDC.

“He has been very excited to be vaccinated,” Scott told News Channel 11 Monday afternoon. “He has seen the freedom that it affords kids that are slightly older than him.”

Instead, it’s “day three,” Scott said. So far, Isaiah’s symptoms have been limited to a sore throat and some sneezing and runny nose, but he hasn’t run a fever.

“A little disheartening:” Despite family’s caution, Isaiah’s number came up

Isaiah Scott

Scott said the entire family — Isaiah’s brother just started fourth grade at Woodland Elementary and his sister is a kindergartner there — has been cautious throughout the pandemic.

“We’ve had our kids wear masks when they’re in indoor spaces, our kids haven’t been in stores or restaurants pretty much since the pandemic started,” she said.

“So, it feels a little disheartening to send them back to school and have it be the first unsafe place for them to start the school year after year and a half of trying to be as cautious as we can until they were vaccinated.”

She said Isaiah and his brother went in-person last school year and the Scotts thought it “went great” having students masked and socially distanced.

“Amazingly, last year our family went to five different schools (she and her husband both work in higher ed) and none of us were quarantined even once,” Scott said.

“Of course we weren’t dealing with the delta variant last year, but the precautions that the school system took seemed to be, at least numbers-wise, effective.”

The speed with which the variant has spread makes Scott think the school system may not have had time to adjust. But she’s also heard other theories.

“I was hearing things from some school officials about being threatened by the state (that) if they implemented a mask mandate or went remote that they would lose funding,” she said. “I don’t know which of those was at play but we definitely didn’t adjust.”

While Scott said she believes legitimate reasons exist for some children to not wear masks in school, she thinks “there are a small number of children, probably less than parents think, that can’t wear masks for other health reasons.”

She said she could support an opt out “if it were a little more specific and maybe asked for a doctor’s note or specific reason, other than that religious freedoms or personal liberties are being infringed upon.”

School system “in a hard place”

Scott said she isn’t interested in a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking when it comes to the school system’s decisions and approach so far this year. She said the schools were mailing letters to parents the first week and that she’s glad they opted for the same day letters in backpacks.

‘It might have been nicer to receive an email or a phone call or text, but it came through his backpack, which I did happen to open that day,” she said.

How many other Coyote students will contract the virus remains unknown, but the entire cadre will spend the next couple weeks out of school.

That news came to parents Sunday, Scott said.

Grete Scott

For the Scotts that means the 14-day hiatus for Isaiah and at least a week out of school for the younger siblings. The family is keeping Isaiah in a separate part of the house — he’s mostly spending a lot of time outside in the kiddie pool, or on the deck at least 20 feet from his mom. That allows for the earlier return for the younger siblings.

Scott said the she and her husband are “still trying to wrap our minds around” what learning will consist of over the next couple weeks.

“I asked on the phone yesterday, ‘are we doing remote learning?’ Because the message just said that they were off for 14 days,” Scott said.

“What I was told is that ‘we were not allowed by the state to prepare plans to go remote. So our teachers have no plans for remote learning. Of course their teachers are putting up work for them to do, but it sounds like maybe the state is forbidding them from calling it remote learning.”

The Scotts and other Coyote 1 Hall parents received this notification Sunday.

Scott said she doesn’t blame the school system for the current situation.

“I do feel like the school board and Johnson City Schools and the teachers have been a little hamstrung this year in their response to the delta variant. I do think they’re doing a great job with what they have available to them. I obviously wish they would have been able to take action with masks a little sooner, but I definitely don’t blame his teachers. I don’t necessarily blame the school system for the way this has played out.”

Scott isn’t as kind in her assessment of state leaders, including Gov. Bill Lee. Lee’s executive order Monday afternoon made a moot point of Johnson City School Board member Tom Hager’s successful amendment to provide parents an opt out to the mask requirement the board approved at a called meeting Friday.

Now, even systems without opt out mandates have been trumped by that order giving parents an opt out by executive fiat.

Scott said she has a message for the governor:

“Your plan backfired, Governor Lee. You sought to keep kids in schools, but your unwavering insistence on being in the building and unmasked led instead to hundreds of students and teachers being out of school, sick and in quarantine from exposure, without a remote option to fall back on.

“We need a new plan, preferably one that leaves politics out of our children’s health and safety. We’re counting on you.”

As for things at the Scott’s home, Grete Scott said she’s trying not to worry about Isaiah’s health.

“There’s always a little of that, in the back of my mind of course, as a mother. I am hearing from my doctor friends that … overall percentage wise that delta is very mild in kids. That they often have symptoms, but that are often mild. So that’s what we’re expecting.”

Then there’s the two younger ones, who remain under the watchful eye of their parents as they primarily work from home.

“One of my nightmares right now is thinking, ‘okay, well we actually did test the other two, they’re negative, but if one of them tests positive next week that restarts the timeline for the other one.’

“Say a week later the other one tests positive — our family could be in quarantine forever is what it feels like right now.”



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