Parents worry Labor Day holiday could lead to spike in COVID-19 cases in schools

PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. — Labor Day weekend is wrapping up and some parents are worried about coronavirus outbreaks in schools.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged the unvaccinated not to travel, families are doubtful people heeded the warning.

“There’s no way those numbers are going to go down after a Labor Day holiday. It’s the first long weekend since school started for most people,” said Jon Gargis, a Paulding County parent. “I’m crossing my fingers and hoping my son’s school doesn’t have a sharp increase in cases leading to having to do digital learning.”

Masks are optional in the Paulding County school district.

“I feel like that’s having an effect on the Covid numbers in our county and I’ve been advocating in our school board meetings for masks,” said Gargis. “Paulding County was underneath, the case numbers were underneath the metro counties, but now we’ve surpassed them.  I think it’s attributable to the lack of a mask mandate because these other metro counties, most of them, have mandated masks in their schools.”

Gargis is not only calling for a mask mandate, Gargis wants the district to report PCR and antigen results when it presents data to families.

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“Other organizations, including Cobb and Douglas Public Health, when they’ve presented to the board of commissioners, they’re presenting that total case number,” said Gargis. “I think if you’re a county organization, a school board, and you’re only presenting one total and not the full total, I think you’re a painting a partial picture of the problem with Covid-19 in our county.”

The most up-to-date numbers won’t be updated until Tuesday, but according to the data available on the Paulding County School District website, four schools are in the red, most are in yellow and 1,747 have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 2nd.

“It’s a very difficult situation for every school district. Every school district is unique. I’m going to give our school district an A plus,” said Cheri Stephenson, a Paulding County parent. “I think they are doing absolutely everything they can to provide a quality, in-person, educational environment as safely as possible.”

Paulding County has different color levels which indicate the current COVID-19 status of each school. Yellow means minimal cases and low spread. Orange shows enhanced mitigation practices. Red is a temporary closure.

“What I appreciate about Paulding County is they are being very proactive about providing information so we can make informed decisions as parents, based on our unique circumstances,” said Stephenson. “I have a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for our district.”

In a statement to Channel 2′s Chris Jose, a district spokesperson explained in detail Paulding County’s response to COVID-19:

The Paulding County School District’s protocols are in agreement with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s actual COVID guidance for schools. PCSD strongly encourages mask use, especially for schools at the Orange Operations Level, and requires mask use for medically able close contacts who return to school before 14 days. Our protocols for Yellow and Orange operation levels are available on our web site and have been provided to all parents. Regarding the data on our COVID web page, Mr. Gargis is simply incorrect. This data:

  • Is updated twice per week (Mondays and Thursdays). We are not aware of any other districts updating their data twice per week as we do.
  • Provides a far greater level of detail in denoting cases for preceding weeks and for each day of the current reporting period, than what you will find reported by others.
  • Also provides a helpful “Per-100 enrollment” ratio that gives a much clearer picture of what is happening in our schools for comparison purposes, since enrollments vary greatly.
  • Breaks down cases by staff and students, as well as elementary, middle and high levels, and provides semester totals.
  • Also provides helpful trend graphs showing 7-day moving averages and vaccination percentages, and
  • The PCR data for Paulding County comes from the Georgia Department of Public Health and is entirely consistent with what is on DPH’s own web site.

The tables below reflect in-person student and staff cases of COVID-19 as reported to the central office by each school for the time period indicated. Similar to how the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reports its data, cases over time can be viewed using two date options, Symptom Onset Date or Date of Report. While every effort is made to report accurate and timely data, please note these numbers are subject to change as the district receives additional information. Symptom Onset Date reflects the date symptoms began (or test date if the person was asymptomatic). We are also including a Date of Report summary listing the date information was provided to our schools.

If a case is reported today, it would be reported on the “…by Report Date” table as 9/3/21.  If the symptom onset was 8/30/21, the case would be reported on the “…by Symptom Onset Date” table as 8/30/21. Needless to say, the reports published on 8/30/21 would not reflect this case. We can only report the information we know at the time, which is why we timestamp our reports.

Again, the Paulding County School District is providing an extraordinary amount of COVID-related data and information on its web page, far greater detail than you will find elsewhere. We have heard from a wide range of parents and community members who have expressed great appreciation for our transparent efforts to provide clear information to our community, and we intend to continue being as transparent as possible so that we can make the best health and safety decisions for our schools.

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