CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. - All Cherokee County Schools will temporarily suspend in-person learning effective January 11, school officials announced.
The announcement comes shortly after a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19, originally found in the United Kingdom, has recently been found in the United States.
On January 5, the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 was discovered during an analysis of a specimen sent by a pharmacy in Georgia to a commercial lab, according to the Department of Public Health. State health officials said the Georgia resident is an 18-year-old male with no travel history.
Friday, the Georgia Department of Health reported more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day.
Schools are set to tentatively reopen on January 19, schools Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.
"Cases are higher in our community, our state and our nation than ever before. Health experts are voicing concerns that a new COVID-19 strain now circulating in our nation will spread faster among everyone, including school-age children," Dr. Hightower said. "Our hospitals are full. Our dedicated workforce of teachers, staff, and substitutes have been affected by the community spread like all of their neighbors."
Dr. Hightower went on to note that the decision to cease in-person learning was also due to 400 full-time staff members who are currently absent due to COVID-19 positive cases.
While the school system is in the digital learning mode, students will be required to use the Canvas platform, school officials said.
In a news release sent to FOX 5, a spokesperson said, "[t]eachers and staff will report to campus and will be teaching online throughout the day and be available to answer emails during regular school hours."
The school system was forced to transition to digital learning multiple times due to COVID-19 related concerns in 2020.
In September, in-person learning came to a temporary halt at 3 Cherokee County Public Schools after an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
When the Fall semester began in August, hundreds of students in Cherokee County had to quarantine after their first week of school after around a dozen students tested positive for the coronavirus.
Fulton County Schools announced its plans to remain virtual for the same week.
Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.