Georgia County Shuts Down All Schools Amid Major Student COVID Outbreak
A Georgia county closed all 11 public schools just over a week after class started as the number of coronavirus cases among students "rose sharply".
Schools in Ware County, southeast Georgia, are now closed until at least August 27, and students will not be allowed to return until September 7th, according to officials. According to WSAV-TV, the schools will not offer virtual classes during this time.
Four other small Georgia school districts suspended face-to-face classes earlier this week as student COVID-19 cases rose.
"At first we thought we'd have a normal start," Ware County Schools principal Bert Smith told WJXT-4 TV.
The biggest problem is staffing quickly, he said, as teachers had to split their time between face-to-face classes and virtual classes for quarantined students. "There is not enough time in the day," said Smith.
As for sick and vulnerable children, "our care clinics are overwhelmed with children who need to be quarantined," he said. "Right now every day is a challenge."
As of Friday, 76 students in Ware schools had tested positive for COVID-19, and another 679 of a total of 5,900 students had been quarantined. Smith said that according to WJXT, 353 students have been quarantined for out-of-school exposure.
Of the county's 950 school workers, 67 tested positive and another 150 were quarantined.
Only 29% of the people in Ware County are fully vaccinated. Georgia ranks among the bottom eight states for vaccination rates, with only 39.4% of the population being fully vaccinated.
Across the country, just a few days after the start of the new school year, at least 10,000 students were quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.
The situation is particularly dire in states with low vaccination rates, where Republican governors and state parliaments have banned mask mandates in schools. Health experts warn that such conditions are sure to contribute to the spread of the dominant Delta variant of the virus, which affects far more children and has more severe symptoms than the original form of the disease.
Ware, like most Georgia counties, has a mask requirement in schools, although masks are "highly recommended" according to the WSAV.
The battle over COVID precautions in schools erupted into violence Wednesday at a California school where masks are required. A father in Sutter Creek reportedly hit a teacher after seeing his daughter wearing a mask, KRON-4 TV reported. The teacher was hospitalized with injuries to his face, according to the school authorities.
"Physical violence just won't be tolerated," said Torrie Gibson, Amador County's superintendent.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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