Union County Primary must close due to Covid-19 outbreak

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Union County Primary

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Union County Primary School will close its building for a week beginning August 23 due to a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases.

A letter from Principal Shane Womack outlined the current situation among staff and students.

“We currently have 20.18 percent (22) staff absent, 3.18 percent (24) student positives, and 11.85 percent (85) students quarantines.”

The positive case rate and quarantine situations resulted in a struggle to keep the school open. There aren’t enough teachers and substitutes available.

For the week of August 23 through 27, Union County Primary will use online learning and classroom packets depending on the grade level. First and second graders will be online using Google Classrooms. If the student doesn’t have access to the internet, parents and guardians can stop by the Primary’s front office on Monday, August 23, to pick up a hot spot.

Pre-K and kindergarten will use the printed learning packet given to parents in the communication folder.
Parents are asked to monitor their children for COVID-19 symptoms.

See Principal Womack’s entire letter below:

Union County Schools (UCS) returned for the 2021-2022 year last week. Union County has been experiencing a significant spike in cases since the beginning of August.

School systems across North Georgia are feeling the effects of the Delta Variant. Gilmer County issued a mask mandate on Thursday, August 19, and Towns County Elementary closed for a week because of an outbreak.

Governor Brian Kemp stated earlier this week that he’s letting local school systems make their own decisions regarding masks and COVID-19 prevention.

Department of Public Health will be releasing new school-age data numbers today, indicating spread within children. In the August 13 report, the Union County cases in the 5-17 age range were marked as high transmission and increasing. Over a 14-day period, DPH recorded nine new cases for the age group. They gathered the data before children returned to school.

Union County Schools COVID-19 Protocols

The COVID-19 protocol as of Friday, August 20 highly encourages masks for students and staff to mitigate spread.

Positive students must quarantine for ten days and may return to school after symptoms end or 24 hours without a fever or fever-reducing medicine. Any student within a 6-foot radius of a positive case will receive a courtesy call and asked to self-monitor.

Potentially exposed employees can still work under the essential worker status. If they exhibit any COVID-19 related symptoms, they must inform their supervisor, and essential worker status will be revoked. These individuals must quarantine for ten days from the onset of symptoms.

These employees must wear a medical or N95 mask at all times aside from eating, drinking. They must also visit the school nurse for morning and midday symptom screenings. Meals will be eaten in an isolated setting.

UCS is making use of seating charts in classrooms to help identify potential exposures and quarantines. Teachers will sanitize their classrooms at least twice a week during mid-day. However, they can clean as much as they see fit. The custodial staff is disinfecting the buildings after school.

FYN will update this story as more information becomes available.

Fannin experiencing “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases

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COVID-19 cases

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Georgia’s currently ninth in the nation for rising COVID-19 cases and Fannin’s verified 89 new cases as of August 10 over two weeks.

In the previous 14-day report the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) recorded 59 cases in Fannin County. On July 26, only 48 cases were documented over 14 days. If the trend continues, it’s likely August numbers will double from July.

Fannin Regional Hospital has seen a “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases.

“The number of tests that are coming back positive are now exceeding the number of positive tests from last winter,” EMA Director Robert Graham commented on the hospital’s case rates.

Additionally, Fannin Regional is finding more cases in younger individuals, but they appear to be milder.

Local area hospitals’ ICUs are full, and some patients are being kept in the ER for treatment. Statewide hospitals are reaching similar breaking points and transferring patients to other facilities.

Only 34 percent of Fannin County is fully vaccinated which is lower than neighboring counties.

“The sampling of tests statewide and its appearing that the majority of the cases, somewhere in the 80 percent range, they’re seeing the sampling is the Delta Variant,” Graham stated. “There’s also a Lambda Variant that’s starting to show up too. and they’re saying it’s even more contagious than the Delta Variant.”

The Delta Variant has proven to be more contagious than previous iterations of COVID-19. Some data on variant suggests more severe illness can result from infection than the original strain.  According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals who experience a symptomatic breakthrough can transmit the virus to others. At this time, it’s unclear if an asymptomatic breakthrough can transmit it to others. Vaccinated people do appear to be infectious for a shorter amount of time.

Graham recommends people use common sense, follow the CDC guidelines, and when in stores or close contact with a group of people, wear a mask.

“They do say the vaccines are fairly effective against the variants, but they are seeing some breakthrough cases of people that actually get COVID that have had the vaccine. One group reported the vaccine is creating a better antibody than someone had actually had COVID,” Graham said.

Some breakthrough infections of COVID-19 are occurring among the vaccinated, but it’s a small portion. According to DPH, of the 4 million fully vaccinated, 0.12 percent have tested positive and 0.00058 percent have died.

Post One Johnny Scearce, who suffered from a lengthy battle with COVID-19 and related illness, confirmed that the vaccine has helped him.

“I would definitely recommend if somebody doesn’t have any other objections to it, definitely get the vaccine,” Graham commented.

Vaccine boosters are in the process, but no definitive word on the necessity of booster shots has come from the CDC, DPH, of NIH.

DPH is working on setting up a testing site closer to North Georgia again, most likely in Gilmer County.

“I think we all know somebody who has been affected by it,” Chairman Jamie Hensley added. “We know it’s a sickness, how bad it can be. We just have to work diligently.”

The courthouse is being regularly fogged to try and kill the virus. Also, all door handles and frequently touched surfaces are being sanitized throughout the day in all departments.

The recreation department will shut down the recreation center on Wednesdays to deep clean. It will open at 3 p.m.

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