BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Some Alabama school systems are returning to online learning or implementing mask restrictions to avoid classroom outbreaks.

In Sylacauga, students will attend classes remotely for three days when the new semester begins on Wednesday to avoid exposure.

Pike County Schools will meet in person but require masks through Jan. 28.

The changes come as Alabama hospitals treat more COVID-19 patients daily and the positivity rate for coronavirus tests exceeds 40% in some places.

With more than 16,450 dead of the illness, Alabama has the nation’s third-highest death rate from COVID-19. Less than 48% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation.