The entire eighth grade class at Coosa Middle School was in quarantine Wednesday after parents were notified late Tuesday that their children may have been exposed to COVID-19.
The notification came as Rome City Schools reported 101 more students in quarantine during the same period of time — the majority at Rome High School, Rome Middle, West End, West Central and Elm Street.
So far, the Rome school system has 170 students and 18 staff members in quarantine.
The Floyd County school system added the 220 newly quarantined students at Coosa Middle to those already quarantined there, as well as at Pepperell Primary and Coosa High.
The system has 312 students and staff in quarantine and seven positive cases across the district.
One of the state’s biggest school districts — Cherokee County — has temporarily closed three large high schools after the virus led to the quarantines of more than 2,000 of its students.
In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Brian Kemp defended the school systems.
Asked about the recent closure of the Cherokee County high schools, Kemp said the spread of the virus “didn’t happen in the schools for the most part. It happened because people came back to school and they already had the coronavirus.”
“So is that the government’s fault? Is that the school’s fault? No, it is not,” Kemp said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.
The number of cases in Floyd County increased by 26 on Wednesday with a total of 489 new cases and a 11.5% positive testing rate in the past two weeks.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, a 10% to 15% positive test rate is considered high, with a more acceptable testing rate set around 5% to 10%.
Chattooga County and Polk County have elevated positive testing percentages, at 17.1% and 16.3% respectively.
Overall, Georgia reported a 10.7% positive rate on average — with 2,391 new cases Wednesday and a running two week average of 2,616 cases per day. Since the beginning of July the state has reported an average of 2,000 to 3,000 new cases a day.
Kemp also defended his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic after a report from the White House coronavirus task force said Georgia led the nation last week in new cases per capita.
The White House report, dated Aug. 16, recommends several steps to curb the virus that Kemp has declined to take, including closing bars and issuing mask mandates in counties with 50 or more active cases.
Kemp was among the first governors to ease earlier restrictions this spring, and while infections declined for weeks afterwards, they began to rise in June and peaked in late July.
The report says “Georgia’s small gains are fragile and statewide progress will require continued, expanded, and stronger mitigation efforts, including in all open schools.”
Kemp insisted Wednesday that other markers he’s watching paint a different picture.
“Right now, our hospitalizations are down 18.8% since our peak on July 30. That’s the lowest level since July 13. Our seven-day average of new cases reported are down 26% since our peak on July 24, and they’re the lowest since July 8,” Kemp said.
Local hospitals continue to report a larger number of COVID-19 patients, with 36 patients at Floyd Medical Center and 28 at Redmond Regional Medical Center on Wednesday.
“If we’re the highest percent capita in the state right now, that’s because Texas and Florida and Arizona and some of the other states that were peaking a week or two ago are on the downclimb, just like we are,” Kemp said. “But that is not the only number that Georgians need to look at.”
The report from the White House coronavirus task force says that last week Georgia had 216 new cases per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 112 new cases per 100,000 residents.