Fulton County schools to stay closed Wednesday

Public schools in Atlanta being cleaned after teacher tests positive for COVID-19

A student waits at the front entrance at Woodland Middle School in East Point, Ga., on Monday, The Fulton County School system decided to close schools on Tuesday after a teacher who taught at that school and two others tested positive with the coronavirus. (AP photo)
A student waits at the front entrance at Woodland Middle School in East Point, Ga., on Monday, The Fulton County School system decided to close schools on Tuesday after a teacher who taught at that school and two others tested positive with the coronavirus. (AP photo)

ATLANTA – Public schools in Atlanta that were ordered closed after a teacher at two middle schools was rushed to a hospital and later tested positive for the novel coronavirus will remain closed on Wednesday.

While all 93,000 students and their teachers will have a second day off and all extracurricular activities are canceled Wednesday, central office and school-based employees were expected to return to work -- with the exception of Bear Creek and Woodland middle schools, two of the schools where the teacher diagnosed with COVID-19 taught.

All Fulton County schools, with the exception of Bear Creek and Woodland Middle Schools, will reopen to all students and staff on Thursday, the district announced.

“While the school system is closed during this period, crews are cleaning and disinfecting every school and administrative building in Fulton County Schools,” according to a post on its website. “All frequently-touched hard surfaces are being wiped down with a hospital-grade disinfectant that is proven to kill bacteria and viruses. School buses are also being cleaned and disinfected and going forward drivers will use specialized wipes to disinfect seats after completing each morning and afternoon run.”

Bear Creek Middle School will be closed to students and staff until Friday and reopen Monday. Woodland Middle School will reopen on Tuesday.

Superintendent Mike Looney said the teacher was taken by ambulance Friday from Bear Creek Middle in Fairburn, south of Atlanta. The teacher also worked at Woodland Middle in East Point. Employees and students from those two schools, as well as Creekside High School in Fairburn were sent home early Monday.

“This particular employee had a lot of contact with students,” Looney told reporters late Monday.

He said the typical teacher in the district instructs more than 100 students a day. Looney said he didn’t know how the teacher had become infected, and couldn’t comment on the teacher’s current medical condition.

“Until we can understand the breadth of this particular issue, I think caution is better than negligence,” Looney said.

Looney said the district has a virtual learning plan, but said it wouldn’t begin until schools have been closed for three days.

Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference after the announcement that districts considering closure should first contact the department of public health. Closures have a significant impact on student learning, employment and other issues, he said.

As of Tuesday, 17 people in Georgia have now tested positive for COVID-19, though not all those tests have been confirmed by the CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said. State officials are awaiting test results on a person who traveled to Atlanta from South Korea and was put into a CDC quarantine unit upon arrival, Kemp said. Federal officials are working to determine that person’s “potential exposure,” the governor said.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga, said in a statement on Monday he was notified that he was in a photo with a person who attended a recent political conference and who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.

“Several” members of Congress had contact with the person, but remain in good health, the Capitol’s attending physician said. Collins said he feels “completely healthy,” but has decided to isolate himself for the remainder of a 14-day quarantine period.

Georgia officials, meanwhile, are turning part of a state park into a site where they can isolate and monitor coronavirus patients, the governor’s office said.

The office stressed in a news release Monday that state officials are making the preparations at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County “out of an abundance of caution,” and no patients are currently scheduled to be transferred there.

Officials have already installed seven emergency trailers at the park about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Atlanta. The Department of Public Safety will provide security, the governor’s office said.

The three confirmed coronavirus cases from Fulton County include a 56-year-old man who had returned to Atlanta from Milan, Italy, on Feb. 22, and his son. Fulton County covers much of Atlanta and surrounding suburbs.

Dozens of Americans on a cruise ship off the California coast are expected to arrive Monday night or Tuesday for quarantine and testing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, officials said Sunday. They include 34 Georgia residents.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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