Coronavirus looms large over second week of school in Georgia

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Two Georgia school districts that garnered national attention last week after photos of crowded hallways went viral on social media will begin their second week of school Monday amid the looming shadow of COVID-19.

North Paulding High School, which faced a backlash last week after the photos were released, the student who took the photos was suspended and later unsuspended, will not return to in-person classes Monday and Tuesday.

The school announced Saturday that six students and three staff members had tested positive for the virus and then announced on Sunday that they would be closing the school Monday and Tuesday to have the building disinfected.

Students will switch to Digital Learning until the school reopens.

“I apologize for any inconvenience this schedule change may cause, but hopefully we can all agree that the health and safety of our students and staff takes precedence over any other considerations at this time,” Paulding superintendent Brian Otott said in a letter to North Paulding parents.

Parents will find out Tuesday evening if digital learning will continue or if in-person classes at the school will resume.

In Cherokee County, the school district announced several new COVID-19 cases over the weekend. On Friday, the school district had a total of 10 staff members and 11 students who had tested positive for coronavirus.

As of Sunday night, eight more students and four more staff members were added to that list, bringing the total to 19 students and 14 staff members.

New cases over the weekend include a digital learning teacher at Carmel Elementary School, a 12th grade student, a 10th grade student and a teacher from Creekview High School, two ninth grade students and a 10th grade student from Etowah High School, a seventh grade student from Freedom Middle School, a second grade teacher from Mountain Road Elementary School, a 10th grade student from Etowah High School, a 12th grade student from Woodstock High School and a fourth grade teacher from Boston Elementary School.

According to data provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health, the 7-day average for COVID-19 cases in Cherokee County has shot up by 30 cases per day since the start of school. On August 4, the first day of school, the 7-day average of new cases reported was 50.8. On Sunday, that average had moved to 81.3 new cases per day.

In Paulding County, the 7-day average over that same period has remained steady.

Statewide, the 7-day average has decreased from August 4 to August 9. On August 4, the state had a 7-day average of 3,562 new cases per day. On Sunday that number had gone down slightly to 3,383 new cases per day.

Cherokee County has a total of 3,462 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 63 people in the county have died from the virus.

Paulding County has a total of 1,678 confirmed cases and 22 people have died from the virus there.

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