covid

FULTON COUNTY — Two post-Thanksgiving COVID test sites for Fulton Schools’ students, staff and families drew approximately 1,000 people last week as system officials work to mitigate the rise of COVID cases in the district.

School Superintendent Mike Looney said the district partnered with Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) to offer the test sites for anyone concerned about their exposure prior to returning to school on Dec. 2 after the break.

“I don’t have exact numbers, but there were long lines of car, many with multiple citizens, and CORE tested about 1,000 people between the two sites,” Looney said.

Out of the approximately 1,000 tests administered, CORE reported 64 positive results, for a positivity rate of 6.4 percent. Looney said that number is consistent with the rate being reported across the region.

All positive cases were immediately reported to the individual, and Looney said over 90 percent of all tested were informed of their status within two days.

During a Fulton School Board meeting on Dec. 2, Looney provided an update of the COVID impact across the district, and the rising numbers seen across the region.

“It’s not a surprise the number of cases is increasing [in our communities],” Looney said. “It’s in the same way it’s increasing in the broader area,  and we are going back to the August time period in terms of level of spread.”

The difference in August is that the trend was moving down instead of up.

All but two of the 13 municipalities in the Fulton School System reported a rise in the number of cases as November ended. In North Fulton County, only Mountain Park showed declines in positive cases.

Looney said he is concerned with the numbers, but he is also encouraged by data that shows manageable hospitalization rates and lower death rates.

“There is good news with the hospitalization rate declining over time as our health care professionals are getting more adept when dealing with COVID,” Looney said.

According to public health figures, 5.9 percent of individuals with COVID in Fulton County since June have required hospitalization. Of those, about 1.2 percent end up dying from complications of the virus.

 “I don’t want anyone to think I’m suggesting not taking COVID seriously, because we should…it’s a serious sickness,” Looney said. “But there are signs we are moving in a positive direction.”

During an earlier meeting, Looney said he was going to “shout from the mountaintops” to designate school personnel among the first to get any approved COVID vaccinations so that learning can continue.

Eight Fulton schools were in danger of not being able to re-open on Dec. 2 after the break because of staffing issues, not COVID cases.

“[Those] schools struggled to open with enough staff, but we have a good bench, and those schools were covered to the fullest extent possible,” Looney said.

He noted the district will continue to follow the established closing plan when faced with COVID issues, and will make decisions in collaboration with local and state public health agencies.

“We will no longer close schools because of the COVID rate in the community,” Looney said. “We are managing the situation based on the situation at the specific school and [recognizing] there is not a one-size-fits-all approach across the district’s 100 plus schools.”

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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