Atlanta area school districts record 6,600 COVID cases in third week

People in favor of and against a mask mandate for Cobb County schools gather and protest ahead of the school board meeting on Aug. 19, 2021 in Marietta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
People in favor of and against a mask mandate for Cobb County schools gather and protest ahead of the school board meeting on Aug. 19, 2021 in Marietta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Editor’s note: This story originally published Monday, Aug. 23. It has been updated to included Clayton County’s data, which was released today.

Metro Atlanta school districts continue to face a surge in coronavirus cases, particularly in Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Gwinnett and Henry counties, according to new data reports.

Fifteen districts recorded 6,607 cases over the past week, according to data reports.

Case counts in Forsyth County Schools more than tripled over the past week, while in Fulton County they more than doubled. Forsyth remains mask optional. Masks are required in Fulton, but the district is considering a mask-optional campus.

Multiple school districts, including Fulton County and Cobb County, are seeing the highest case counts in elementary schools among children not yet eligible for vaccines and least likely to be tested.

In a recent data report, the Georgia Department of Health reports that more than one in every 100 children in the state between the ages of 5 to 17 has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

Cumulative totals for the month in 14 of the 15 metro Atlanta districts surpassed 10,500. Because some districts record only active cases rather than new cases, some counts may overlap from week to week.

School districts report that social distancing measures in place on buses and in cafeterias are more challenging this year because a higher volume of students are in classrooms as opposed to learning remotely.

At least two area faculty members reportedly died last week after contracting the coronavirus, their families said. Both teachers became ill before the start of the school year and never had contact with students.

Janet Bruce, 50, had been a science teacher at Grayson High School in Gwinnett County. Walter Kearse, 36, was a coach at Luella Middle School in Henry County.

“I want people to get vaccinated. Wear our mask,” Kearse said in a video from his hospital room before he died. He had been vaccinated.

Below is a summary of the latest coronavirus data and news from Atlanta area districts. Districts do not post information in a uniform way.

Atlanta Public Schools

In a week’s time, the coronavirus case count in Atlanta Public Schools nearly doubled.

In its latest report, the overall count was 395 cases: 335 students, 60 staff. The bulk of cases recorded were at elementary schools.

Masks are required in the district, which enrolls about 51,000 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 395

Week ending Aug. 13: 224

Week ending Aug. 6: 90

Cumulative total: 709

Buford City Schools

In its latest report, Buford City Schools reported 71 cases of COVID-19, as of Aug. 20. That’s more than double the previous week’s total.

The highest count was documented at Buford Middle School, which recorded 39 cases.

Masks are optional in the district, which enrolls about 5,525 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 71

Week ending Aug. 13: 30

Cumulative total: 101

Cherokee County School District

The Cherokee County School District recorded 832 active COVID-19 cases in the week ending Aug. 20.

Of those, 258 cases were in elementary schools, 300 in middle schools and 254 cases in high schools.

Nine schools documented more than 30 cases. The highest case counts were at Etowah High School (81), E.T. Booth Middle School (63) and Dean Rusk Middle School (54).

Masks remain optional in the district, which has approximately 41,000 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 832

Week ending Aug. 13: 565

Week ending: Aug. 6: 196

Cumulative total: 1,593

City Schools of Decatur

City Schools of Decatur recorded 21 cases for the week ending Aug. 20.

Masks are required in the school system, which enrolls approximately 5,700 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending: Aug. 20: 21

Week ending Aug. 13: 13

Week ending Aug 6: 10

Cumulative total: 44

Clayton County School District

Nine schools in the Clayton County School District pivoted to virtual learning in August. The district has not released coronavirus case counts in any of those schools.

The data for the week ending Aug. 20, which posted Wednesday, documented 287 cases of COVID-19. Of those, 266 were students, 21 staff.

Masks are required in the district, which enrolls more than 50,000 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 287

Week ending Aug. 13: 107

Week ending Aug. 6: 158

Cumulative total: 552

Cobb County School District

Active COVID-19 cases in the Cobb County School District continue to soar. For the third consecutive week, elementary schools are recording the highest counts.

As of Friday, the district reported 936 active cases: 463 in elementary schools, 216 in middle schools and 257 at high schools.

A week earlier the overall count was at 551.

As the case numbers grow, so does the debate over whether the district should forego its mask-optional policy for stricter protocols. At a school board meeting last week, Chairman Randy Scamihorn shot down an attempt by board member Leroy Tre Hutchins to add a discussion about the district’s COVID-19 policies to the evening agenda.

“This is not an emergency,” Scamihorn said. But that same night, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Lisa Cupid signed a declaration of emergency due to the surge in coronavirus cases.

With approximately 107,000 students, Cobb is the state’s second-largest school district.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 936

Week ending Aug. 13: 551

Week ending Aug. 6: 185

Cumulative total: 1,672

DeKalb County School District

The DeKalb County School District’s last data report records 428 active cases for the week ending Aug. 20.

A week earlier, the district recorded 289 active cases.

DeKalb’s overall data doesn’t paint a true picture of active cases this month since the first week’s total included cases dating back to July 1.

Masks are required in the district, which enrolls approximately 93,000 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 428

Week ending Aug. 13: 289

Cumulative total: 717

Douglas County School System

The Douglas County School System recorded 163 cases of the coronavirus for the week ending Aug. 20.

Fifty-two cases were recorded at elementary schools, 56 at middle schools and 50 in high schools.

Alexander High School, which documented 28 cases, had the highest count followed by Chapel Hill Middle School, which recorded 21 cases.

Masks were mandated early in August after a 17-year-old student in the district reportedly died with COVID-19. Approximately 26,000 students are enrolled in the district.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 163

Week ending Aug. 13: 93

Week ending Aug. 6: 62

Cumulative total: 318

Fayette County Public Schools

The Fayette County district recorded 266 cases of the coronavirus in the week ending Aug. 20. That’s 93 cases higher than the previous week.

Elementary schools had the highest case count with 107, following by high schools with 88, middle schools with 68 and three additional cases from other sources.

Masks are optional in the district, which has approximately 20,000 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 266

Week ending Aug. 13: 173

Week ending Aug. 6: 34

Cumulative total: 473

Forsyth County Public Schools

The number of COVID-19 cases for the week ending Aug. 20 was more than three times higher than the previous week. The district recorded 877 cases as of Friday, which is up from 289 cases a week earlier.

Elementary schools documented the highest counts with 379 cases. Middle schools recorded 242 cases, while high schools had 241. Another 15 cases were recorded in various district departments.

The district said it’s launching a campaign today to encourage mask wearing, though the face coverings will remain optional in the school system of approximately 51,000 students.

“Students will not be disciplined, badgered or bullied for their choice to wear or not wear a mask,” Superintendent Jeff Bearden said in a statement Friday. “We will respect the choices of our families and our staff.”

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 877

Week ending Aug. 13: 289

Cumulative total: 1,166

Fulton County Public Schools

The latest report by Fulton County Public Schools records 625 cases of the coronavirus among students and staff.

That’s more than double the week earlier.

The highest count was in elementary schools, which had at least 242 cases. Seventeen cases were recorded at both Birmingham Falls Elementary School and Heards Ferry Elementary School.

But Creekside High School had the highest overall count with 28 cases, followed by Langston Hughes High School with 22 and Johns Creek High School 18.

Masks are required, but the district is considering a mask-optional campus to accommodate parents who oppose them. Enrollment is around 94,400 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Aug. 13-19: 625

Aug. 6-12: 306

Aug. 2-5: 91

Cumulative total: 1,022

Gwinnett County Public Schools

The state’s largest school district recorded 814 new cases of COVID-19 in its latest report. Of those case, 720 are students, while 94 are staff.

Masks are required in the district, which has approximately 177,000 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Aug. 16-22: 814 new cases

Aug. 9-15: 565 new cases

Aug. 4-8: 250 new cases

Cumulative total: 1,629 new cases

Henry County School District

Henry County recorded 480 cases of COVID-19 last week — almost twice the number of the previous week. Of those, 427 were students, 53 were staff.

As of today, the district said that 1,132 individuals were quarantined. More than 1,000 of those are students.

Masks are required in the school district of approximately 43,000 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Aug. 23 report: 480

Aug. 16 report: 245

Aug. 9 report: 69

Aug. 2 report: 14

Cumulative total: 794

Marietta City Schools

When students returned to Marietta City School this month, masks were optional. But as of today, they’re required in buildings and on buses.

“The data in recent days continues to be compelling and, as the person responsible for the safety and learning of our students and staff, I strongly believe we need to change our course of action,” Superintendent Grant Rivera said in an email message to parents.

In its latest report, the district recorded 94 cases. Marietta High School had the highest count, with 23 cases. All but one were students.

The school system has approximately 8,900 students.

COVID-19 cases:

Week ending Aug. 20: 94

Week ending Aug. 13: 54

Week ending Aug. 6: 27

Cumulative total: 175

Paulding County

In its latest report. the Paulding County school system recorded 318 cases.

The highest case counts continue to be in elementary schools.

Masks are optional in the school district of about 29,000 students.

Editor’s note: The district reports cases by the date of symptom onset rather than the date COVID-19 is confirmed.

COVID-19 cases:

Aug. 22 report: 318

Aug. 15 report: 379

Aug. 8 report: 170

Cumulative total: 867

Data specialist Jennifer Peebles as well as staff writers Vanessa McCray and Leon Stafford contributed to this report.

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