After receiving guidance from the governor’s office, the Floyd County school system is shifting its policy to follow Department of Public Health quarantine orders concerning students who have had a possible COVID-19 exposure.

Interim Superintendent Glenn White said Tuesday it will take time to implement the change.

“We will be in total compliance with all DPH guidelines on Monday,” he said.

White said they will need to inform parents that they will have to find childcare for their children as well give teachers time to prepare lessons for students in quarantine.

Students who are in the 14-day quarantine after a possible exposure won’t shift to the system’s virtual learning academy, but will have take-home packets and lessons. During that time in quarantine, students will stay in touch with their regular teachers and receive assignments and guidance.

“It will increase the number of students who are in quarantine,” White said.”We will know more about the numbers as this week goes on.”

The change in policy came from a direct communications from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office and public health. “We will comply with what Gov. Kemp says,” White said.

School systems across the state have had a rough start back this year amid the pandemic. All schools in Rome and Floyd County resumed classes on Aug. 13 and have seen COVID-19 exposures to one degree or another.

Rome City Schools currently has 189 students and 22 staff members out after COVID-19 infections or potential exposures. Most of those staff and students are concentrated at Rome Middle School, Rome High School and Elm Street Elementary.

The county school system shut down three schools for a time and at one point announced the entire school system would switch to virtual learning, before walking back that decision the next day.

All county schools were opened back up on Aug. 30 after officials announced a change in how students and teachers would quarantine. The shift announced Tuesday will only partially reverse that change.

Teachers in the system will continue to be considered essential personnel and will not quarantine immediately upon a possible exposure.

Staff quarantines have stretched school districts’ ability to keep providing in-person instruction. However, keeping exposed teachers without symptoms in the classroom raises the risk that they will spread the respiratory illness to students and fellow employees.

A Tuesday release gave more instructions about when or if a student in the school system needs to quarantine.

“Parents or guardians should notify their school principal if they or their child develops COVID-19 symptoms and/or receives a positive COVID-19 test result,” the FCS release states. “If your child develops COVID-19 symptoms or positive COVID-19 test results while under a quarantine period, please also notify the school system. Sharing such health information with FCS will be kept strictly confidential.”

New COVID-19 cases decline, hospitalizations still up

Countywide, recent two-week averages in new cases continue to trend downward somewhat, although they are still much higher than pre-August infection totals.

Floyd County’s running two-week number of new cases declined to 350 cases Tuesday after a single-day spike of 70-plus new cases sent it back above the 400 mark last week.

On average, local hospitals reported caring for over 50 COVID-19 positive patients each day during the past two weeks.

The state’s coordinating hospitals Region C covers Floyd, Chattooga, Polk, Bartow, Haralson, Carroll, Heard and Coweta counties. In that region, 744 inpatient beds are in use — 93% of the region’s capacity — and 83.4% of the region’s 136 ICU beds are in use.

Those number don’t exclusively reflect COVID-19 patients. Local hospitals earlier reported that they’ve seen higher noncoronavirus-related need for hospital bed space as well.

Emergency department beds, which could be used in case of a possible overflow, are at 48.4% capacity in the region. The number of adult ventilators in use also was low, at 15.8%, as of Tuesday.

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