First week of school: 185 COVID cases in Cobb, 166 in Gwinnett

Students in Cobb County returned to school on Aug. 2. The district reported 185 active cases of COVID-19 in its schools this week. None were at Pearson Middle School in Marietta, where students are seen exiting busses on Aug. 2, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
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Students in Cobb County returned to school on Aug. 2. The district reported 185 active cases of COVID-19 in its schools this week. None were at Pearson Middle School in Marietta, where students are seen exiting busses on Aug. 2, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Two of Georgia’s largest school districts are reporting dozens of COVID-19 cases within the first week of school.

The Cobb County district reported 185 active cases in schools since classes began Monday, according to the district’s website. Masks are optional in Cobb schools though “strongly encouraged.”

The Gwinnett County School District, which requires masks, reported 166 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and Thursday, the first two days of school. The Gwinnett cases involve 147 students and 19 school district employees, according to reports posted on the district’s website.

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Students across most metro Atlanta school districts returned to classrooms this week to varying pandemic protocols. In addition to Gwinnett, masks are required in Atlanta, Clayton and DeKalb districts.

The Fulton County School District announced this week that masks will be required at most of its schools when classes start Monday. The exception are schools located in Johns Creek, where COVID-19 case numbers were just low enough to fall under the district’s threshold for requiring masks.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in pockets of Georgia due to the low vaccination rate in the state as well as the highly contagious delta variant, health officials said. Children under age 12 aren’t eligible for vaccines.

School data

The 2020-2021 school year ended with seven metro Atlanta school districts reporting an estimated total of more than 15,000 known coronavirus cases among students and staff. Although the data was incomplete, it provided a rough snapshot of how districts fared.

But this week, as the new school year kicked off, only a few districts posted coronavirus data about known cases.

As of Friday, Cobb’s website showed a cumulative count of 253 coronavirus cases recorded since July 1. School-by-school cumulative numbers reflect cases counted since the 2021-22 school year started Aug. 2

Unlike Gwinnett, Cobb’s data does not specify whether cases are among students or staff. Nor does it break out cases involving staff members who don’t work in schools. Broken down, 86 cases were reported in elementary schools 47 for middle and 52 for high schools.

None of Cobb’s 113 schools report more than 10 active cases of the coronavirus.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, Gwinnett had posted numbers only for the first two days of school. Several high schools reported multiple cases on the first day, including Archer High, which had 12, according to the report.

Simpson Elementary School reported 12 new cases on Thursday.

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The Gwinnett district announced it was re-imposing its mask mandate late last month. The change was made due to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Gwinnett, only students in kindergarten, first, sixth and ninth grades as well as many students with special needs attended the first day of school in person, with the rest learning digitally. Students in grades 2, 3, 7 and 10 went back Thursday in person and the rest of the district starts Monday in person.

The COVID-19 case numbers for Gwinnett include students who are learning in person this year or participating in extracurricular activities. About 3% of the roughly 180,000 students in Gwinnett are learning digitally this year, the school district said earlier this week.