More than 250 students and teachers from one Georgia school district are now quarantined, just one week into the new school year. Multiple teachers and students across the district's schools have tested positive for COVID-19 after classes resumed Monday.
Cherokee County School District is sharing ongoing updates on coronavirus cases in its schools on its website. As of Friday, over a dozen students and teachers have tested positive, sending home hundreds of people after just five days of school.
Since the beginning of the week, at least 11 students and two staff members across elementary, middle and high schools have tested positive for coronavirus. The students' ages span from first grade to twelfth grade.
After conducting contact tracing, the district said at least 250 students and staff who had possible exposure to positive cases must quarantine for two weeks. During that time, students will receive online instruction.
Cherokee County schools resumed in-person learning on Monday, August 3. In a letter to families on Friday, Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower said that the trend of students and staff testing positive every day "will continue as we operate schools during a pandemic."
"We know we're under a microscope, as national media follows the reopening of schools across the country," he wrote. "But know that our decisions are not based on what people in New York or Kansas think, nor are we concerned about 'optics' or 'image' – we're focused on what's doing best for our community."
Hightower said that the district is taking extra steps to remain transparent, including updating weekly current case totals and sharing as much detail as possible about positive cases.
Hightower also emphasized the importance of wearing masks, following viral photos from the state showing a group of high school students closely packed together without face coverings. North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, lifted the suspension of two students who were punished after posting photos of the school's crowded hallways.
"As we said before reopening, social distancing is not possible in all situations at our schools — this is why we require our staff to wear masks or face shields when they cannot distance, and this is why we're providing masks to students and strongly recommending they wear them," he said. "This is a critical component to keeping schools open."
As schools begin to reopen around the country a staggering number of children have tested positive for the virus — once thought to only affect older populations. Dozens of schools and colleges have reversed their original reopening plans in favor of online-only education in the fall.
Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for virus in the last two weeks of July, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds. Out of almost 5 million reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S., CBS News' Michael George reports that the group found that more than 338,000 were children.