Administrators at a Georgia High School got a taste of the Streisand Effect last week when they suspended two students for shared images of students navigating packed hallways between classes while a pandemic rages across the state. The photo went viral and one student used the free time to do TV news hits. Now, the school is getting a taste of some kind of previously unknown Mecha-Streisand Effect as it closes down for a deep clean after nine positive covid-19 cases were discovered among staff and students.
On Sunday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on a letter sent to parents by North Paulding High School Superintendent Brian Otott informing them that the school will be closed on Monday and Tuesday so it can be “thoroughly cleaned and disinfected” after six students and three faculty members tested positive for covid-19. Carmona wrote that students will switch to digital learning courses while the procedure is underway and warned of the possibility that the number of cases could increase “if there are currently pending tests that prove positive.” Otott said that parents will be notified by Tuesday evening if regular classes will resume on Wednesday.
All eyes were on Georgia last week as schools reopened amid the coronavirus spread that has seen over 5 million documented cases of infection in the United States. When North Paulding opened its doors in Dallas, Georgia, last Monday, its lack of precautions for preventing the spread of the virus disturbed Hannah Watters, a 15-year-old student at the high school. Watters took a photo of the facility’s hallways filled with students moving between classes, shoulder-to-shoulder, with virtually no masks being worn.
Watters and another student shared the disturbing hallway images online and they quickly spread as the perfect visual example of authorities’ lack of preparations for reopening schools at a moment in time when coronavirus cases continue to explode in various regions of the country. School administrators suspended the students for sharing the images, and Watters decided to use her free time to go on cable news and talk about the situation. By Friday, the school had a change of heart, reversed the suspensions, and wouldn’t you know it, the people in charge now have an outbreak on their hands.
According to the New York Times coronavirus tracker, Georgia is averaging 3,227 new covid-19 cases per day. Since June, the number of cases has steadily been on an upward curve with a total of just over 200,000 cases and 4,108 deaths. Georgia has been a model of incompetence when it comes to tackling the coronavirus, but the nation as a whole has been watching its schools for signs of how things could go in other states where classes resume at a later date.
On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association released a report finding that over 97,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for coronavirus in the last two weeks of July. And while some countries that have handled the pandemic in a more responsible way than the U.S. have had luck with school reopenings, they’ve also reimagined how to approach in-person classes with proper social distancing guidelines.
In his letter to parents, Superintendent Brian Otott didn’t mention any guidelines for keep students safe at North Paulding while they’re in classrooms, but did remind parents that school district guidelines require that, “any students and staff who are confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with any identified close contacts, must quarantine for at least 14 days and cannot return to school until they have completed all the requirements of the DPH’s guidance for persons infected with COVID-19.”
Take a look at that picture of the hallways and tell me how many close contacts you think should be quarantined for 14 days.