More than 23,000 students and staff at Atlanta-area schools have gone into quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure just weeks into the school year.
The reported figure could also only be a fraction of the total students quarantined, according to WSB-TV, because many districts do not report data on students in quarantine.
Fulton County, which includes Atlanta – though the city has its own school district – reports 6,233 students who are either in quarantine or have tested positive.
Lamar County, around 50 miles south of Atlanta, suspended school for two weeks after so many staff members were quarantined that the schools could no longer function.
The data come as the entire state suffers an Indian ‘Delta’ variant-fueled surge of the virus.
Schools in the Atlanta area have already been hammered by COVID-19, only weeks into the new school year. Over 23,000 students are in quarantine, including over 6,200 in Fulton County alone. Pictured: Maskless high school students leave a Cherokee County school during the first week of classes
Gov Brian Kemp (pictured) said that he would not impose mask mandated in Georgia, and instead leave it to individual school districts
Other districts that have reported quarantine numbers include Gwinnet County, which has 2,337, students and staff in quarantine, Atlanta Public Schools themselves have 2,035 students and staff in quarantine.
Cobb County, which has quarantined 1,764 staff and students, DeKalb County, 930 in quarantine, Fayette County, 1,003; Hall County, 1,336; and Rockdale County, 823; all have a large number of students and staff quarantined as well.
The guidelines for who goes into quarantine and for how long are not the same for each county.
More than 6,300 positive COVID-19 cases have been detected between Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Gwinnett and Henry counties, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC).
Private schools, which do not have to report data and are not required to follow to same county guidelines, have struggled to control COVID-19 surges in schools as well.
Gov Brian Kemp has previously said that he will not institute mask mandates in schools, but let schools and districts decide for themselves.
‘Every school is different, they’re in different neighborhoods, they’re in different counties, they’re rural, suburban, they’re urban,’ Kemp said during a school visit earlier this month.
‘We’re trusting the local systems, school boards to work with their parents and their administration to make a good decision for each individual school; our kids are going to be better for us doing that.’
Fulton County has made masks mandatory in its schools and facilities.
Last week, though, Kemp signed an executive order preventing local governments from forcing mask mandates on to businesses.
Unlike others states like Florida and Texas, the order does not extend to schools.
Dr Kathleen Toomey, Georgia’s public health commissioner, wrote a open letter to superintendents in the state last week, asking superintendents to make student quarantining within the school to have to wear masks.
“Regardless of your general masking recommendations, DPH strongly recommends that schools’ modified quarantine plans require masking during the time of quarantine to ensure the safety of children and staff in the schools and reduce the spread of COVID-19 that we have already seen in the schools statewide,’ Toomey wrote in the letter obtained by the AJC.
COVID-19 cases in Georgia have group by 70 percent in the past two weeks
Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, has better control over its COVID-19 situation.
New cases have grown by 24 percent since August 8, from 369 to 458.
The Atlanta area is not the only place struggling with school Covid outbreaks.
Across the state of Mississippi, 5,000 students and staff have been placed into quarantine.
Raleigh, North Carolina, and surrounding areas have been struck hard by Covid outbreaks in school.
Hillsborough County, in Tampa Bay, Florida, has placed over 5,500 students in quarantine early in the school year.
Quince Orchard High School in Montgomery County, Maryland – around 20 miles northwest of Washington D.C. is suffering from a growing COVID-19 outbreak as well.
Vaccines are not yet available for students under the age of 12, leaving them vulnerable to the virus.
Some advocates, like the American Association of Pediatrics, are pushing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to extend authorization of the vaccines to protect children at schools.