First, a photo of a packed hallway went viral. Now at least nine people at this Georgia school have tested positive for COVID-19
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and case numbers being on the rise in many states, schools in some areas have already attempted to open for the fall semester. And if you’ve been online at all in the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen viral photos from the hallway of a high school, packed with students, very few masks in sight, and certainly no social distancing. That high school is North Paulding High in Dallas, Georgia, and this week, it’s shut down again because at least nine students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
This is the first day of school in Paulding County, Georgia. pic.twitter.com/fzdidaAABM
— 🇯🇲Black🇭🇹 Aziz 🇳🇬aNANsi🇹🇹 (@Freeyourmindkid) August 4, 2020
Buzzfeed News reports that six students and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, and Principal Gabe Carmona confirmed that all nine people who tested positive were at the school “for at least some time last week.” On Sunday, Paulding County School District Superintendent Brian Otott announced that in-person classes would be suspended on Monday and Tuesday this week, and that the district isn’t ruling out the possibility that classes may be canceled for longer than that.
This is not what I have been stressing. Shutting down has never been what I wanted. This letter could have easily said that they made masks mandatory, but no. Paulding hasn’t made masks mandatory due to Gov. Kemp. If we had opened safely, with masks, we could still go to school. pic.twitter.com/695PPMtWFK
— hannah (@ihateiceman) August 9, 2020
Students, including Hannah Watters, who originally shared the viral hallway video, have criticized the school for saying it can’t force students to wear masks.
“Wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them,” Otott said in a previous letter to students and parents, sent out soon after the hallway photo started making the rounds online. “What we will do is continue to strongly encourage all students and staff to wear masks.”
Day two at North Paulding High School. It is just as bad. We were stopped because it was jammed. We are close enough to the point where I got pushed multiple go to second block. This is not ok. Not to mention the 10% mask rate. pic.twitter.com/JKbGYqG9RS
— hannah (@ihateiceman) August 4, 2020
Like most high schools, though, North Paulding has a dress code that reads, “The school administration reserves the right to alter the dress code for special occasions or extracurricular activities.” So here we have a school that maintains it can absolutely control female students who want to wear tank tops, but that mandating masks during a global pandemic is out of the question. And now, just weeks after opening, the school is closed again because students and staff are sick with COVID-19.
Staff and administrators say that the closure will be used to thoroughly clean and disinfect the school, as if that will solve this problem. The latest science indicates that COVID-19 is an airborne disease, and you’re much more likely to catch it from a person talking, coughing, sneezing, or breathing without a mask than from an infected surface. But sure. Clean the school and then let all the maskless kids back in. We will probably be seeing another closure in the very near future.