With Mackay students back in classrooms following winter break, Principal Stephanie Green said everyone is doing their best to prevent another COVID-19 spike in the district.

Around Thanksgiving, four people in the district tested positive for the virus. Between Nov. 23 and Dec. 1, health experts tracked the four cases and found dozens of students who had close contact with them. Those students had to join the confirmed cases in quarantine.

After the slight scare, all students who had to quarantine are back in school, Green said. Since then, Superintendent Susan Buescher said the district has confirmed only one case. A female student tested positive, but because she contracted the virus during the Jan. 9 weekend, no one else in the district was exposed.

"We've been very fortunate," Buescher said. "Let's hope it stays that way."

District staff began receiving their first round of vaccinations this week. Using the Moderna vaccine, Eastern Idaho Public Health workers took doses of the Moderna vaccine to Mackay to vaccinate district employees who signed up.

Buescher said her staff was given the option to opt out, which half of them did. Although she didn't ask why, Buescher said a couple of people provided reasons for not wanting the vaccines. One person worried about a possible allergic reaction and another said since they tested positive a few weeks ago they would rather their dose go to someone else, Buescher said. While she's personally nervous about possible side effects, Buescher said she looks forward to her vaccine.

District employees and students won't let up on COVID-19 prevention methods, but Buescher said it will be nice to relieve some of the stress associated with the virus.

Green said it has been interesting to see how the students have acted since returning from break. Usually students are hard-pressed to find anything enjoyable about returning to school following the holidays, but Green said Mackay students seem excited to be back.

"Things get taken for granted," Green said.

Green remarked Custer County in general has been doing better with COVID-19. As of Jan. 17, the county had six active cases and has been returned to the minimal-risk category.

Unable to say if the increased number of cases in Mackay contributed to county residents taking the virus more seriously, Green said she's happy to see a low active case count, regardless of why it's occurring.

Although they aren't too concerned about another jump in cases right now, Green and Buescher said school district employees are prepared for the worst. They'll stick to their response plan and continue to quarantine active cases and people who were in close proximity to them.

Green and her staff are all happy to see the kids back in school and they'll try to keep it that way, she said.