Georgia’s top epidemiologist said Tuesday that 60% of COVID-19 outbreaks in the state over the last several weeks have occurred in K-12 schools.
“Which is about a seven-fold increase than it had been even in previous waves in this pandemic,” state epidemiologist Cherie Drenzek said during a Board of Public Health meeting.
With a 240% increase of COVID-19 cases among children since July, Georgia’s students are at the center of the current surge.
“The magnitude of this, of the number of cases here in this age group among school children is very significant,” Drenzek said.
Drenzek said the current surge has caused more than 100 recent outbreaks in schools statewide since July 4, including in Ware and Glynn counties.
After just over a week in session, Ware County Schools closed all of its 11 schools because of a “sharp increase” in COVID-19 cases. Schools reopened their doors last week. The school system is reporting 23 cases and 18 in quarantine.
Students in Glynn County are back in the classroom after two weeks of virtual school and a jump in cases. Students returned to in-person learning on Monday with a mask requirement. Currently, Glynn County schools have 112 positive cases.
Camden County schools required masks when classes began last month and have not had to close or switch to virtual learning. The school district is reporting 64 positive cases among students and staff, with 74 in quarantine.
“Last year, we lost only one child to the flu. We usually lose 100 to 200 children due to the flu infection. Why did that happen? Because of the steps we took to prevent COVID — which is masks, providing hybrid teaching-learning situations and keeping away from large gatherings,” said Dr. Mohammed Reza, an infectious disease specialist.
Reza said that whenever there are people in close quarters with doors and windows closed for a long period of time, the coronavirus will spread. He said he’s hopeful that things could change in schools once COVID-19 shots are approved for younger children.
“It’ll totally change how we combat this virus because we know how effective those vaccines are,” Reza said.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 45% of Georgians are fully vaccinated — which is well below the national average. State health officials are trying to make COVID-19 vaccinations part of visits to primary care doctors.