Cobb County Schools to end contact tracing for COVID-19 exposures

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Just hours after Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health announced guidance stating there would be more testing available to schools and contact tracing would be optional, Cobb County Schools announced they would follow that guidance.

It made the district the first in Georgia to move in that direction.

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Some Cobb County parents were not happy to hear the news. Suzanne Wooley, who has a third grade son in the school system, told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson she was stunned at the decision.

“I don’t know whether to cry or just scream right now,” Wooley said. “He could catch it, be asymptomatic and give it to his baby sister who has zero protection.”

The county, which has maintained a mask-optional policy in school buildings, said the decision will help them reduce strain on staff.

School Superintendent Chris Ragsdale addressed the board Thursday evening and said no longer having to track who infected students come into contact with and notifying parents will free up valuable resources.

“Contact tracing has been probably the biggest lift on staff resources, to have that accomplished and primarily in a timely manner,” Ragsdale said.

The letter from the state also gives school districts the green light to allow exposed staff the ability to return to work immediately if they don’t have any symptoms.

“As long as they’re going to wear a mask for that quarantine period, they’ll be allowed to come back to work the very next day, which will greatly assist us in maintaining all of our classrooms being open,” Ragsdale said.

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Georgia’s schools are still adapting to the omicron-fueled wave of infections that many doctors believe still may be weeks away from reaching their peak.

“The models that I’ve seen look like us possibly getting to our peak here in this month of January,” said Dr. Danny Branstetter of Wellstar Health System. “And hopefully by the end of this month, we are starting to come down from our peak and looking at a lot better situation.”

Branstetter and other doctors say that vaccinations, testing and masking will lead the way in helping contain the pandemic.

“Prevention is the key here,” Branstetter said. “COVID is here to stay, and we’ve got to take all the measures we can.”

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But many parents like Wooley said the changes will make it much harder to know just how close the virus might be to infecting her family.

“Parents will have no idea if their child has come in contact with a positive case,” said Wooley. “We have no ability to make informed decisions anymore.”