Cobb schools district reports 100 COVID-19 cases in staff, students

Cobb County schools has reported about 100 suspected cases of COVID-19. (AJC file photo)
Cobb County schools has reported about 100 suspected cases of COVID-19. (AJC file photo)

With a little more than a week to go before classes begin, the Cobb County School District is already contending with cases of COVID-19.

The district said since July 1 it has been informed by Cobb & Douglas Public Health of about 100 cases involving district students or staff members, said spokeswoman Nan Kiel.

The district relies on students and staff members to self-report potential COVID-19 cases. The health department confirms the disease via testing and contacts others who may have been infected. The health department asks those who test positive to self-quarantine for 10 days and “we strictly enforce their guidance,” Kiel said.

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No other details will be provided by the school district to protect the medical privacy of students and staff, Kiel said.

Valerie Crow, spokeswoman with Cobb & Douglas Public Health, said while there’s no way it can ensure a person is following orders to isolate or quarantine, they do believe most people are abiding by those instructions.

“We do get the occasional complaint from concerned citizens, which we follow up on to make sure there is no confusion,” she said. “Most often, those situations are easily rectified.”

The school district, which has about 113,000 students, will begin the 2020-21 school year virtually on Aug. 17. Other school districts have also reported COVID-19 cases among students and staff. At least five staff members with Marietta City Schools, which started the new school year Tuesday with virtual-only classes, have also tested positive for COVID-19.

Cherokee and Paulding County schools, which began the new year Monday with virtual and in-person classes for students, have reported coronavirus cases too. Students and staff at schools in those districts have been ordered to quarantine.

As of Thursday, 12,718 coronavirus cases, 313 deaths and 1,350 hospitalizations have been reported in Cobb County, according to the state Department of Public Health.

READ | Parents critical of Cobb schools’ reopening plan

Cobb’s announcement of its COVID-19 cases comes after several dozen parents held a protest Saturday to call on Superintendent Chris Ragsdale and the school board to offer a face-to-face option for students when classes resume. Kiel previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that until public health guidance and data for the county indicate that it’s “safe,” the school year will begin with students and teachers working remotely.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health Deputy Director Lisa Crossman told the AJC this week that the agency meets with public and private school leaders regularly to review new positive cases, 14-day transmission rates, cases per 100,000 people in the county, hospitalizations and the status of intensive case unit use in the district.

While it doesn’t make decisions about whether classrooms should reopen, Crossman said the health department tries to provide school leaders “with the most accurate information for them to make individual decisions for their schools.”

“We have worked tirelessly together to help develop practical reopening policies and practices so that they are best prepared for when the time is right for each school to resume face-to-face-learning,” she said.

Crossman added it may take weeks of “diligence” on the part of residents to get the cases per 100,000 people down to a “moderate” level. Cobb’s cases per 100,000 people within the last two weeks stands at 373; over 100 is considered high community spread.

“It would certainly be ideal to get to that point before large groups again convene, but the school leaders have the authority to develop their reopening plans even in the current high level of transmission,” Crossman said. “We do strongly reinforce that they should do their very best to put practices in place to reduce transmission among the students and faculty.”

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