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Two weeks after opening, Atlanta schools report 4,000 COVID cases

August 16, 2021, 5:23 PM UTC

Schools opened in the Atlanta metro area on Aug. 2. Now, just two weeks later, the number of COVID-19 cases among students and faculty has exploded to nearly 4,000.

The startling numbers, gathered by the Atlanta Journal–Constitution, show just how rapidly the virus is spreading in the state. And administrators are quickly rethinking their plans, with 10 districts suspending in-person learning already.

The change has come so fast that some teachers aren’t conducting live online classes, instead only posting assignments for children to complete. Statewide, 1.7 million students attend public schools in Georgia.

Despite the growing numbers, many parents in affected districts are still voicing opposition to mask requirements for schoolchildren (defying a growing national trend). Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, is making masks optional, but Atlanta Public Schools are requiring masks.

The suburbs of Decatur, Clayton County, DeKalb County, Douglas County, Gwinnett County, and Henry County also are requiring masks. (Henry County switched to a mandate only last week. It reported 822 individuals in quarantine Monday.)

At least two districts in the area have delayed the start of the school year. And some, such as Ware County, have suspended class operations entirely as a result of the high number of cases. Students aren’t expected to return there until Sept. 7.

Many other school districts, which previously said they would not post data on COVID cases or offer contact tracing, have since reversed their policies.

Georgia has been a hotbed for COVID-19 in recent weeks. The state’s seven-day rolling average topped 6,000 on Friday, the worst it has been since Feb. 1. More than 4,200 people have been hospitalized, with health care officials warning they are running low on beds and staff. (More than 87% of the state’s ICU beds are in use, and over 40 hospitals statewide are turning away patients.)

Gov. Brian Kemp has resisted calls to mandate vaccines or masks.

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