Spike in coronavirus cases reaches Cobb, Marietta schools

201105-Marietta-Celeste Martin works behind a plastic partition during her language arts class at Marietta Middle School on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 5, 2020. Even though there are only five students in the room during class, they all wear masks and sit behind plastic partitions. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
201105-Marietta-Celeste Martin works behind a plastic partition during her language arts class at Marietta Middle School on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 5, 2020. Even though there are only five students in the room during class, they all wear masks and sit behind plastic partitions. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

The recent increase in coronavirus cases in Cobb County following the Thanksgiving holiday has made its way into the local school systems.

An additional 356 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been added to the Cobb County School District’s tally of cumulative cases that have been reported since the summer. The district on Friday updated its website to show it now has 1,570 confirmed cases since July 1.

That’s up from 1,214 cases it reported as of Tuesday. The Cobb County School District, which finished the first semester with remote learning due to the uptick in cases in the community, updates its website each Friday.

Cobb County schools previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that in order to protect the privacy of anyone who is sick or quarantined, it will follow a state Department of Public Health recommendation to not list the number of cases by school if there are less than 10. The district also does not indicate whether those with the virus are students or staff members.

As of Friday, Marietta City Schools now has 87 active COVID-19 cases, according to its website that is updated each Friday. Broken down, 63 of those active cases are among students and 24 are staff-related. That’s up from the system’s Dec. 11 report that listed 48 active cases — 36 among students and 12 among district staff.

Seven Cobb schools are reporting more 10 or more active cases, with Walton High School leading the pack with 23 cases. Walton is followed by Kemp Elementary School with 17 cases, Hayes Elementary School with 14, Vaughn Elementary and Hillgrove High schools with 13 and Campbell and Wheeler high schools with 10. The remaining schools all reported zero or less than 10 cases.

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Most of the city school system’s COVID-19 cases are at Marietta High School, which has 22 student and three staff cases. That’s followed by Dunlieth Elementary School with 14 student cases and Marietta Middle School with 10 student cases. The bulk of staff cases are in the system’s central office where seven active cases are listed on the website.

Updated numbers will be posted on both districts’ websites when the second semester resumes in January.

Dr. Janet Memark, director of the Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department, said Tuesday that when rapid antigen test results are included, the county’s two-week case rate was 678 per 100,000 people. This is six to seven times higher than what is classified as high community spread.

“Hospitals are extremely full with a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations to match the record number of cases that we are seeing,” she wrote in an email earlier this week. “Much of what we are seeing is thought to be due to the holiday traveling and gathering from the Thanksgiving vacation.”

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said during the Cobb County Board of Education’s work session Thursday that in order for the district to keep the face-to-face option available to parents and students, it’s important that residents don’t let their guard down over the winter break.

“Our goal is to maintain face-to-face classrooms as an option for all those families that want to take advantage of that option,” he added.

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Ragsdale also told the school board that the district has received the go-ahead from Cobb & Douglas Public Health to modify how it reports school-by-school cases on its website. The district currently lists the number of active cases at each school if they are 10 or greater. Starting in January, the district will begin listing the cumulative number of cases at each school, Ragsdale said. It still won’t differentiate between students and adults, the superintendent added.

In a video message released Thursday, Superintendent Grant Rivera asked Marietta City Schools parents, students and staff to watch what happens in their homes and community “as we seek to open schools and welcome our children back January 5th.” He also pleaded with residents to continue wearing masks, washing their hands frequently and maintaining social distancing.

“The time is now for us to take the actions needed in our homes and in our community, and particularly around holiday celebrations and New Year’s Eve celebrations,” he said. “Please, I ask each and everyone of you let’s do what we need to together now so we can welcome our children back in January.”

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