COVID-19 outbreak disrupts summer program for gifted Georgia students

Organizers of a summer program for high-achieving Georgia high school students have restricted on-site access and canceled a gathering this weekend after a COVID-19 outbreak among students, staff and administrators at the North Georgia college where it’s being held.

Georgia Governor’s Honors Program officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Tuesday they learned of the first positive case on June 21, two days after the program started. By Friday, there were 13 positive student cases and five officials who tested positive, organizers said. Classes were canceled Saturday due to the uptick in cases.

As of Wednesday morning, 41 students and 15 faculty, staff and administrators tested positive for COVID-19, officials said. There were 628 students and 99 faculty, staff and administrators in the program. All students testing positive have been sent home for the recommended five-day quarantine, officials said.

“We are working closely with the parents of those students testing positive to determine the most appropriate timing and measures for re-entry into the program,” program organizers and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement said in a statement. “We are highly recommending that students, faculty, staff, and administration wear masks while indoors and practice social distancing.”

The monthlong program is being held at Berry College in Floyd County. The students are rising high school juniors and seniors and must be selected for the program. Students take classes and participate in a wide variety of social and instructional opportunities.

A planned family weekend for this weekend has been canceled, and organizers are restricting any outside visitors at concerts, performances and other events, officials said in a statement.

Officials said the Georgia Department of Public Health has been notified and the program’s manager has been working with the Floyd County Health Department to confirm that all protocols follow their recommendations.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and if protocols need to be changed based on constant communication with the Floyd County Health Department, we will adjust accordingly,” the statement said.