ATLANTA - The state's top education official shared his personal brush with COVID-19 and encouraged district and school leaders across the state to continue their efforts in mitigating the spread of the virus within school buildings.
Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods said he experienced a breakthrough infection with symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization at the start of the current school year. Woods said he and his wife communicated with each other over video calls while they were both isolated. He said he added a personal touch to his open letter, saying he doesn't want any Georgian to go through what he experienced.
"Though my symptoms were severe, and I did experience a breakthrough case, my doctors fully believe that the vaccine assisted in mitigating the effects of the virus and kept me alive during the ordeal," Woods said. "I am not just speaking to you as State School Superintendent, but as a fellow Georgian, when I say: I encourage all who are eligible to consult with their doctor and prayerfully and thoughtfully consider getting vaccinated."
Woods urged Georgians to consult medical professionals for opinions when considering vaccination.
Woods said the schools are in a better position to fight the Delta variant than they were in 2020 with vaccines widely available.
Woods encouraged district leaders to communicate openly with the communities in which they work to increase buy-in with policies such as mask mandates. Woods said districts across the state share a common desire to teach students in person.
"Though issues like mask mandates can divide us, there is more that unites us," Woods wrote.
He said the responsibility of slowing the spread of COVID-19 falls not only on district leaders but parents and their students.
"This virus cannot be strangled by mandates or planned into non-existence, but we can work together to overcome this common threat," Woods wrote.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging and that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks. Currently, there are no approved vaccines for children under the age of 12.
School districts across Georgia have implemented mask mandates in waves since the start of the school year. That has been met with resistance from parents and even leaders at Georgia's State Capitol.
Approximately 51.5% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while just under 61% has received at least one dose of a shot, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in people 16 years of age and older after more than 200 million Pfizer doses already have been administered in the U.S. since emergency use began in December 2020.
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