23 Marietta school system employees get COVID-19 vaccine

Marietta City Schools has taken the first step in offering employees some protection against COVID-19.

The school system on Tuesday gave several dozen employees the chance to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera said the system partnered with Cobb & Douglas Public Health and Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service to offer the vaccine to 56 employees, including teachers and district staff, who are age 65 and older.

District spokeswoman Jen Brock said 23 employees voluntarily took the vaccine. Those employees, along with frontline healthcare workers and residents and employees of long-term care facilities, are allowed to be vaccinated as part of the state’s Phase 1A rollout plan.

Phase 1B of the vaccination plan calls for inoculating police officers, firefighters and public school educators, the Georgia Department of Public Health previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam told the AJC on Dec. 22 that phase 1B is at least a month away from being implemented.

Credit: Credit: Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools

Credit: Credit: Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools

“We’ve trained nurses and we are prepared, if given permission, to push out vaccines on our campuses to make it as convenient for staff as possible,” Rivera told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Marietta City Schools has about 1,400 employees. The district has had several employees test positive for COVID-19. As of Dec. 18, the latest date available, there were 24 active COVID-19 cases in the district. Marietta schools’ most recent numbers will be updated Friday.

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Rivera said state law prohibits districts from requiring teachers to be vaccinated. He hosted three virtual meetings with several hundred educators on Monday and many of those staff members had questions about the vaccine, such as do they have to register to be vaccinated and when will the vaccines arrive for them. The health department controls that timeline, Rivera said.

The superintendent said the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Cobb County does make him worry about how it will affect district operations. As of Tuesday, there were 39,208 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 565 deaths and 2,397 hospitalizations.

“I have concerns all day, everyday because I worry about the safety of students and staff and their families,” Rivera said.

Cobb’s two-week case number per 100,000 people has nearly doubled in the last month. As of Tuesday, there were 727 cases per 100,000 people. That number was 616 on Dec. 22 and 380 on Dec. 8. Anything higher than 100 cases per 100,000 people is considered to be high community spread, public health officials have said.

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The Cobb County School District, which has 17,740 employees, said its workers over the age of 65 and its school resource officers can get the vaccine as early as next week, said spokeswoman Nan Kiel. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Cobb school district hard. Hendricks Elementary School teacher Patrick Key died on Christmas Day after a month-long battle with COVID-19 and several others have had to be hospitalized with the illness.

Kiel said the district expects Cobb & Douglas Public Health to announce dates and times “which will provide additional convenience and flexibility exclusively for any Cobb employee who qualifies under the Phase 1A plan.”

Credit: Credit: Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools

Credit: Credit: Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools

Valerie Crow, spokeswoman with Cobb & Douglas Public Health, said it’s working on a rollout plan with school systems in its jurisdiction. In the meantime, the agency on Thursday will start offering the vaccine to people in the 1A category at Jim Miller Park in Marietta.

An appointment can be made using the system on the department’s website created solely for Phase 1A members, the department said. An email will be sent to those residents from the local health department on how they can register after they enroll. Each participant will be asked to provide proof of healthcare personnel status. The health department will prioritize Cobb and Douglas county residents, it said.

On Jan. 12, the department will begin vaccinating groups who fall into Phase 1A+, which includes public safety personnel and people age 65 and older. The appointment system for that group will be provided beginning Jan. 11 on the Cobb & Douglas Public Health website.