GASTON AND CABARRUS COUNTIES, N.C. — Many schools across North Carolina do not have mask mandates, but school nurses say they still have protocols in place to keep students safe.


What You Need To Know

Gov. Roy Cooper announced NCDHHS recommends masks in school, but the state is not requiring them

The state is offering two COVID-19 testing programs for school districts

Gaston and Cabarrus county schools have quarantine rooms for any students who appear to have COVID-19


Melissa Foley has worked as a nurse for 25 years. About half of her career has been in Gaston County Schools, which is where her teenage daughter attends. Last year, she personally saw what the coronavirus was like. Her whole family got sick during Thanksgiving.

“We were lucky, we had sinus-type symptoms, but that just shows you how easy it is to overlook COVID-19,” Foley said. “It felt just like a bad cold or a sinus infection, so it made me realize how important it is to pay attention to any symptoms you are having.”

This year she will be on the lookout for many of those symptoms among students. This includes a fever over 104, new loss of taste or smell, chills, cough and more. If she believes the student has COVID-19, that person will be sent to a quarantine room.

“They are placed in isolation until a parent is contacted and can pick them up or authorize them to drive home,” Foley said.

School nurse supervisor Tammy Alexander looks over Cabarrus County and Kannapolis Schools. She said the biggest difference this year is that students who are vaccinated will not have to be quarantined if they come into contact with someone with COVID-19. Students also don’t have to quarantine if they're unvaccinated and wearing a mask.

“In order to avoid exposure, it has to be that both people, the one positive as well as the one exposed, are wearing a mask,” Alexander said.

Both school systems say they are still working with the state to allow COVID-19 testing on school property. It may be several weeks until that program is in effect.