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7-year-old Savannah boy youngest of Georgia’s 4,000 COVID-19 related deaths

Images, reports from reopening schools drawing criticism

A police officer directs cars into a coronavirus testing facility at Georgia Tech Monday, April 6, 2020, in Atlanta.
A police officer directs cars into a coronavirus testing facility at Georgia Tech Monday, April 6, 2020, in Atlanta. (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

According to data released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Public Health, 4,026 people in the state have died related to COVID-19. Among the latest victims was a 7-year-old boy from Chatham County -- the youngest in the state whose death was attributed to the virus.

According to state data, the child was black and had no comorbidity -- the presence of additional conditions that would contribute to his death.

“Every COVID-19 death we report is tragic, but to lose someone so young is especially heart-breaking,” Coastal Health District Director Dr. Lawton Davis said in a statement Thursday. “We know that older individuals and those with underlying conditions are at higher risk of complications, but this is a disease everyone should take seriously. Please watch out for each other, wear a mask in public, wash your hands often and stay home if you’re sick.”

The state added 42 deaths and 3,182 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday.

Georgia has now reached 204,895 COVID-19 cases. (News4Jax tracks the increases in a 24-hour period, and it’s worth noting the increases in cases that we calculated Thursday did not match the increases on the DPH’s dashboard.)

The increases come as Georgia is drawing criticism over photos of crowded hallways in its reopened schools and reports of outbreaks.

More than 90 staff members in the Barrow County Schools District, about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, have been quarantined due to coronavirus exposure or infection. The district will now begin the fall semester with distance learning on Aug. 17.

Superintendent Dr. Chris McMichael says the district took “every precaution” and staff members were required to wear masks during preplanning before students returned to buildings. But dozens of employees were still infected or in quarantine due to a suspected case or direct contact with a confirmed case.

Also this week, about 260 employees for Gwinnett County Public Schools, the state’s largest public school district, reported testing positive for the virus.

Critics widely derided pictures on social media showing crowded hallways and few students wearing masks in several Georgia schools.

In Cherokee County, dozens of seniors gathered at two of the district’s six high schools to take traditional first-day-of-school senior photos, with students squeezing together in black outfits. No one in pictures at Sequoyah High School in Hickory Flat or Etowah High School in Woodstock wore a mask.

In Paulding County, student pictures taken Monday and Tuesday show crowded hallways at North Paulding High School in Dallas. Fewer than half of the students shown are wearing masks.

In Southeast Georgia, Camden and Brantley counties opened schools this week with both in-person and virtual options for students. Charlton and Pierce counties open schools Monday. Ware County opens schools Aug. 17 and Glynn County opens schools Aug. 20.

In the six Southeast Georgia counties tracked by News4Jax, 55 new cases were reported Thursday -- including 30 in Glynn County and 16 in Ware County.

A total of 84 deaths attributed to the virus have been reported in Southeast Georgia. An additional death -- a 64-year-old man with no known underlying condition -- was reported Thursday in Ware, bringing that county’s total to 25.

As of Thursday, the total number of hospitalizations statewide stood at 20,002 -- 214 of which were reported in the last 24 hours. The state admits the total number of hospitalizations is likely an underestimation since it only counted if it was at the time the case was reported to DPH. The number also does not represent the number of people currently hospitalized.

More than 1.72 million people have been tested in the state, which had an 11% positivity rate, as of Thursday.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.