Nine people at a Georgia high school have tested positive for the coronavirus, the principal wrote in a letter to parents first obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. Photos that went viral last week showed the school’s hallways packed with students in the first days of the school year.
“At this time, we know there were six students and three staff members who were in school for at least some time last week who have since reported to us that they have tested positive,” North Paulding High School Principal Gabe Carmona said.
At least two students at the school were suspended for tweeting now-viral photos of students not wearing masks and packing a hallway, though district officials lifted the suspension of at least one of them after the student’s parents filed a grievance and the story received national attention.
North Paulding’s football team was already facing a coronavirus outbreak before school reopened, as multiple players tested positive and showed symptoms of the disease. Still, after photos of the crowded hallways went viral, the superintendent of the Paulding County School District said schools can’t force students to wear masks, a practice recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them,” Superintendent Brian Otott said.
Georgia’s Paulding and Cherokee counties reopened schools last week, as the number of reported cases in the state continues to rise.
Georgia is among several states failing to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in part because Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has opposed mandating protective masks and allowed indoor attractions like restaurants and salons to reopen as Georgia was surging in cases and deaths. In July, Kemp sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city council over local requirements that people in the state’s largest city comply with CDC guidelines by wearing protective masks in public.
According to Johns Hopkins University, 4,186 Georgians have died from COVID-19 and more than 200,000 people in Georgia have been infected with the disease, which has lingering health effects on some.
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