Just a week after the schools reopened in a northern Georgia school district, more than 800 of its students and staff have been told to quarantine.
Last week, the Cherokee County School District, about 44 miles north of Atlanta, told 20 people to quarantine when a second-grader tested positive for the virus after the first day of school. That number rose rapidly, and as of Monday evening, the school has ordered 826 students to quarantine due to potential exposure, according to a district list created.
The circle of 42,000 students lists about 40 cases in 19 primary, secondary and high schools, but it is unclear whether all of them represent positive coronavirus tests or whether some are from people who were just exposed to infected students or staff.
The circle routinely conducts contact tracking to determine who may have been exposed to people testing positive for the virus, according to NBC WXIA Associate in Atlanta.
A spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday that the district envisioned before schools reopening that “positive tests could occur between students and staff.”
That “is why we have put in place a system to quickly contact tracks, quarantine mandates, notify parents and report cases and quarantines to the whole community,” spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said. “We are not hesitant to quarantine students and staff who have had potential exposure to a student or staff member who tested positive.”
Cherokee County schools recommend but do not require students or staff to wear masks.
After a viral photo captured several masked students standing over their shoulders, Superintendent Brian V. Hightower wrote a letter to parents saying the image failed to show that many students in the district wear face masks.
“Photographs of senior groups taken outside of school in some of our camps raised concerns that those students may not be aware of the importance of masks,” Hightower wrote. “After the investigation, we learned a lot of dress masks routinely, but we must continue to remind all students of the importance of masks when you can not distance yourself from society.”
Hightower also said in its note to families last week that he is not sure how long the county will be able to keep schools open in the face of the pandemic.
“The answer will depend on all of us as a community,” he wrote.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference Monday that he is happy with the reopening of schools across the state.
“I think very honestly this week went really well except for a couple of viral photos,” the governor said.
Hilary Porterfield, the parent of a Cherokee school student, told NBC News last week that she was “irritated” by the way the coronavirus pandemic was treated. She said positive issues should serve as a “red flag” for the district.
“It ‘s just a matter of time before it gets out of control,” she said.
Blayne Alexander contributed.