More than 800 required to quarantine in Georgia school district that doesn't require masks

More than 800 required to quarantine in Georgia school district that doesn't require masks
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More than 820 students and 40 teachers in a Georgia school district will have to quarantine after coming into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case just one week after classes started.

The Cherokee County School District in the Atlanta metro area reported on its website that 826 students and 40 teachers at 20 elementary, middle and high schools will need to quarantine for 14 days. It is not clear how many people in the district have tested positive for COVID-19.

Affected classrooms are “deep-cleaned” before reopening, the district states on its website. Students who must quarantine will receive instruction online.

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The district recommends that its 40,000 students wear face masks and coverings but does not require them. Only staff and teachers are required to wear masks when they cannot socially distance. Studies show face coverings and masks can stop the spread of COVID-19, but Georgia does not have a mask mandate, and districts have been wary of issuing their own.

The quarantines illustrate the difficulty of reopening schools in a pandemic, particularly in hot spots like Georgia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends reopening schools to avoid the negative consequences of the loss of in-person instruction on students. But it also recommends students and staff wear masks and keep a distance of at least six feet.

But experts note that it can be harder to reopen schools safely in areas of the country where there is widespread transmission of COVID-19.

The outbreak in Georgia appears to have stabilized, but the state is still reporting an average of 3,200 new cases per day.

Cherokee County has reported a total of 3,535 cases, including 650 cases in the past seven days.

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In schools that do reopen with in-person instruction, students and staff should wear masks and desks should be spaced six feet apart, the CDC recommends.

But some schools are not following those guidelines uniformly due to space constraints or questions about whether it is possible to enforce mask-wearing.

Cherokee County Superintendent Brian Hightower wrote in a letter to parents Friday that it is not clear how long schools can remain open.

“The answer will depend on all of us as a community. We need to social distance whenever we can, and always wear masks when we cannot,” he wrote.

“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.”