Georgia high school that went viral due to photos of crowded hallways is forced to close due to COVID outbreak

Georgia high school that went viral due to photos of crowded hallways is forced to close due to COVID outbreak

A follow-up to Friday’s post about North Paulding High, which became famous nationally last week after two students snapped pics of kids packed cheek by jowl in the halls between periods as they moved to their next class. Both students were briefly suspended for violating rules against taking photos of people without permission, then un-suspended after school administrators were excoriated for retaliating against kiddie whistleblowers.

Today brings news that six students and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 — so far. Whether as-yet unknown infections are currently incubating among other people who were in the building last week is anyone’s guess, so the school is closed today and tomorrow as a precaution. As for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, they’re playing it by ear.

What a sh*tshow this country’s going to be this winter.

“On Monday and Tuesday, the school will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and the district will consult with the Department of Public Health to assess the environment and determine if there (are) any additional close contacts for confirmed cases who have not already been identified,” Paulding Superintendent Brian Otott wrote in a letter to parents Sunday…

Angie Franks said both her nephews who attend the school have tested positive for COVID-19. One came home from school Monday unable to smell, she said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His mother took him for testing and got results the next day that showed he had been infected with the coronavirus, Franks said. By then, his brother was exhibiting symptoms and was also tested. His positive results were returned Wednesday.

The students are quarantining at home, but both went to North Paulding High on the first day of school last Monday. Franks said the boys’ father notified the school on Tuesday and Wednesday after getting their test results.

Neither boy wore a mask while in school, as the administration isn’t requiring them of students. A lingering question: Would the school have shut down as quickly if it weren’t already under a media microscope because of the viral hallway photos? Withholding information about infections among the student body would be malfeasance even under the best circumstances, but doing so after the school was exposed for its difficulties in getting students to distance from each other would have been a major scandal.

Just how much of a sh*tshow is this country going to be in a few months? WaPo reported this past weekend that an “internal model by Trump’s Council on Economic Advisers predicts a looming disaster, with the number of infections projected to rise later in August and into September and October in the Midwest and elsewhere, according to people briefed on the data.” The CEA denies that it has any such model but WaPo claims that Trump and his aides were “alarmed” by the data. Coincidentally, the respected science/medicine website Stat has a piece out today warning that “America’s window of opportunity to beat back COVID-19 is closing,” as colder temperatures this winter will almost certainly turbo-charge community spread. People will escape the weather by spending more time indoors, where the virus transmits more easily, and they’ll also be battling common winter ailments like flu. The time to drive down cases so that we’re starting at a low base of transmission in October and November is, well, now.

“I think November, December, January, February are going to be tough months in this country without a vaccine,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota…

“We should be aiming for no transmission before we open the schools and we put kids in harm’s way — kids and teachers and their caregivers. And so, if that means no gym, no movie theaters, so be it,” said Caroline Buckee, associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“We seem to be choosing leisure activities now over children’s safety in a month’s time. And I cannot understand that tradeoff.”…

Osterholm has for months warned that people were being misled about how long the restrictions on daily life would need to be in place. He now thinks the time has come for another lockdown. “What we did before and more,” he said.

Dude, we can’t even cancel fall college sports without people throwing tantrums. We’re not doing another lockdown. Many millions of Americans concluded some time ago that they’re willing to tolerate a high (if not exponential) level of community spread in the interest of carrying on more or less as usual. In fact, some of the doctors who spoke to Stat marveled at that fact, reflecting that they’ve never observed the same degree of fatalism and denialism about the risk from COVID with any other illness. One epidemiologist said that her father recently went to visit friends and insisted on wearing a mask and not shaking hands, a perfectly reasonable thing for an older man to do. “[T]he people kind of acted like, … ‘Oh, you drank that Kool-Aid,’” she says.

Even so, I’m onboard with reopening anything anyone wants to open. My sense is that about a third of the country would be willing to shut things down for safety’s sake, to prepare for winter; another third wants to keep everything open because they’re either in denial or think shedding one or two hundred thousand more olds from the population is worth it to maintain a semblance of normalcy; and another third suspects that we’re about to have a sh*tshow but simply will not believe it unless they see it with their own eyes, never mind what’s happened over the past five months. The sooner that third group gets the evidence it needs, the sooner we can start taking precautions, which means we should open stuff now and start the process of letting them be convinced. The fate of North Paulding High is an early data point in that effort.

Here’s “Fox & Friends” anchor Ainsley Earhardt candidly admitting that she was “shocked” to learn that 97,000 American children tested positive for COVID in the last two weeks of July alone, with the actual number of infections surely much, much higher than that. That shouldn’t be a shock — more than one study over the past month proved that kids are perfectly capable of getting infected and, in the case of older kids, of transmitting the virus to adults. This is what happens when you get your information about COVID from the president, who’s claimed with zero basis that kids are “almost immune.” Like I say, big sh*tshow coming.

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John Sexton 3:20 PM on September 26, 2023