HIAWASSEE, Ga: Towns County Elementary is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak with ten positive staff members and six positive students. The building is closed for the week with students moving online.
In an online statement, Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong explained that the virus is rapidly moving through the elementary school staff.
“We are seeing kinda what we saw last year. This is not passing currently through our students, and it wasn’t passing through our students last year as well. The majority of these students are isolated cases. They are not attached to one another. The staff members obviously are attached to one another, not all ten. These are three or four isolated events where one staff member passed it to the next,” Berrong stated.
Towns County Elementary is virtual this week for thorough cleaning of the building and to stop any future spread. The 2021-2022 school year began for students on August 4.
The option for virtual learning is available due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the area. Parents and guardians have until Wednesday, August 18, to sign their child up for online learning for the entire semester. The virtual learning option will start on Monday, August 23. The curriculum for online education will be through Calvert learning for elementary, Edgenuity for middle, and Gradpoint for the high school.
“You need to look closely if you had a child online last year whether or not they were successful and whether that is the right choice for them,” Berrong added.
All parents are encouraged to research the curriculum to inform their decision.
They will reassess the need for online learning before the second semester begins. Berrong hopes the Delta Variant spikes quickly and cases drop just as quickly. However, they will continue to monitor the situation.
Towns County Middle School and Towns County High School each have one positive student at this time. Classes are still in person for the week at the middle and high schools.
The FDA and CDC approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 and older. The vaccine trials are still ongoing for younger children.
New COVID-19 policies are in place. Masks are again encouraged to wear a face-covering to school. Face coverings aren’t mandated. Berrong explained he would be wearing a mask. No visitors will be allowed at Towns County Schools.
Positive cases must quarantine for ten days, and after the ten days with no symptoms for 24 hours with no fever-reducing medicine, they may return to school.
If a student is in close contact with a positive case, they will quarantine for seven calendar days and can return on day eight.
Students who had close contact with a positive case but wore a face covering may continue to attend in-person class while wearing a mask.
“It’s not because we’re seeing the transmission between students, and if it is transmitting, the students are not getting sick, but they very well could be transmitting to the adults,” Berrong added.
Local hospitals are reporting full ICUs and seeing more patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases or with COVID-like symptoms. Union General Hospital stated that 90 percent of the hospitalized cases are unvaccinated.
Some of the Towns County Elementary staff were vaccinated and still experienced breakthrough cases. Currently, none of the elementary team are hospitalized with COVID-19.
In Towns County, the Department of Public Health reports that 45 percent are fully vaccinated, and 49 percent have received at least one dose.
Over the last two weeks, Towns County confirmed 23 new cases over three days. It’s a significant increase from the previous lows maintained in the area.
Still, Towns transmission is seemingly lower than counties with lower vaccination rates. Fannin County’s only 35 percent fully vaccinated, and it reported 89 new cases over two weeks. The numbers are likely to continue to grow.