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This city has over 24,000 COVID cases in its schools—and others are catching up

September 8, 2021, 7:15 PM UTC

As schools settle in for a rocky start to the academic year, COVID cases are exploding in many cities.

There isn’t a national database of COVID outbreaks in schools, but school districts’ reporting shows concerning numbers of positive COVID tests from both students and school staff.

Atlanta’s school district has found 24,270 confirmed cases since the start of the school year—and that’s without data from Clayton County, one of the area’s largest districts, being updated. Last week alone, nearly 6,000 students tested positive. That’s an increase of over 20,000 cases in under a month.

Other large school districts around the U.S. don’t match Atlanta’s high numbers, but they are catching up quickly. For instance, Tampa has nearly 9,000 students in quarantine after just the first week of school. Los Angeles reported 5,307 cases as of Sept. 1, despite some of the strictest safety protocols in the country. Another 729 school staff in L.A. schools have also been infected.

Texas schools’ case numbers are notably higher than Atlanta. Statewide, nearly 52,000 students (and almost 14,000 staffers) have tested positive this school year. And more students tested positive last week than during the peak period of the 2020–2021 school year. In Houston alone, there are over 11,500 cases among students and staff.

New York City public schools are set to reopen on Sept. 13, and parents and onlookers will be watching the numbers from the city carefully.

What’s concerning in these cities isn’t just the numbers, it’s how fast the virus is spreading. Atlanta schools have been in session since early August. Texas began going back around Aug. 9, but it was a rolling return. Neither Georgia nor Texas is requiring students to wear masks.

Not every large school district is in crisis mode, though. Chicago schools have only officially reported 11 student and 28 employee cases so far this year, though the city doesn’t update its data in real time (and teachers’ union officials say they’ve been told over 900 students are in quarantine). San Jose’s three largest districts, meanwhile, have reported just 120 COVID cases year to date, giving credit to mandatory mask orders.

And Miami has reported 147 students and 186 employees testing positive since school tracking began on Aug. 13. Since that time, though, 13 school employees have died from the virus.

Several school districts do not make public announcements on COVID case numbers, but they will occasionally post a notice on social media or their district website.

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