COWETA COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) – As many schools continue in-person learning, the COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Public health officials are recommending masks in schools all the more.
Hayla Folden, the Media Relations Specialist for District 4 Public Health, said DPH is seeing an increase in COVID-19 infections among school age children week after week.
“There are several things driving this. The delta variant of course is more contagious so it’s easier for them to catch it. Many of these students in the 5-17 range are under 12 so they are not able to get vaccinated. You really need all students wearing masks so you need anyone who may have it plus anyone who may catch it needs to be wearing a mask in order to prevent it,” said Folden.
According to the DPH, the percentage of children ages 5-17 contracting COVID-19 had a 117% increase last week over the week before, children ages 0-4 had an 111% increase and students ages 18-22 had a 95% increase.
Folden said wearing a mask in schools is only one layer to preventing COVID-19 and should be done by all students. She also said she understands many students prefer not to wear a masks but it is important to have a safe and healthy school year.
“Vaccination is not 100% but we recommend it, wearing a mask is not 100% but we recommend it so once you add these things together then you’re more likely to be protected against catching COVID-19,” said Folden.
She said many schools adopting the mask optional option has left the decision up to the parents on how they want to protect their child. Not vaccinating a child and choosing not to wear masks reduces the number of layers a child has to avoid contracting COVID-19.
Kimberly Goston, a parent with four children in the Coweta County School District, said Coweta County is utilizing the mask optional option however, she requires her children to wear masks everyday to school.
“My kids are still required to wear masks when they go to school. We provide them with new disposable masks every morning,” said Goston.
Goston’s daughter, Olivia, began presenting symptoms of COVID-19 on Aug. 17, 2021 and later tested positive for the virus the same day. Goston said she did not receive a call from the school that her daughter had been exposed to the virus despite being in close contact with a teacher that also tested positive. She believes that it could have been avoided if there was a mask mandate in the school district.
“I just think it’s reckless for parents and for the school board to not make this a mandatory requirement for the kids to not wear masks in schools with the number of students that they have. Schools are already crowded and so you would think that they want this extra layer of protection to ensure that they kids are able to continue in person school instead of having close down completely,” said Goston.
Goston said she does not want to make her children go back to virtual school but wants the school district to take measures to protect them and enforce a mask mandate.