Despite nearly a thousand students and staff currently in quarantine, the Toms River interim schools superintendent insists "there is no COVID-19 outbreak in our district."

Stephen Genco sent a letter to parents Thursday complaining of "erroneous and misleading reporting" on the issue. "There are no plans to transition to virtual learning at any school or classroom, " Genco wrote.

Some have tied the large numbers of individuals in quarantine to a lax mask policy to start the year, but Genco has again disputed that claim. He insists students were only allowed to go maskless for the first few days of the new school year due to excessive heat, and then only in areas of schools buildings that did not have air conditioning.

The quarantine numbers did draw the attention of Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli at this weeks COVID briefing. Both said the state was looking into the issue.

Genco told the Asbury Park Press he blamed the quarantines on kids enjoying normal summer activities with no restrictions. Noting Toms River is a "community on the beach," Genco told the Press, "These kids came in from the summer with no masks, no restrictions....we were dealing with a disease that was already there."

The district's website lists 761 students still in quarantine due to possible COVID exposure. While that number is trending down, the number of students who have tested positive for COVID is going up, from 208 to 235 as of Thursday.

I felt it necessary to reach out and assure our school community that, contrary to what you may have heard, there is no Covid-19 “outbreak” in our district. - Stephen Genco, interim Superintendent, Toms River Regional School District

Despite Genco's insistence there is no "outbreak," those numbers certainly qualify under state and CDC guidelines. An "outbreak" is defined as cases where two or more unrelated students or school staff were infected in the classroom or in a school setting.

Genco expressed "frustration" over having to respond to media reports, and said he was "proud of the job we are doing" to safeguard the safety of students and staff in the district.

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