ATLANTA - Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp said that the reopening of some of the state’s schools amid the coronavirus outbreak has gone well except for photos shared on social media showing students crowded together in hallways.
“I think quite honestly this week went real well other than a couple of virtual photos,” Kemp said at a news conference with the U.S. surgeon general announcing a COVID-19 "mega-testing" site near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.
Photos shared widely on social media last week showed hallways packed shoulder to shoulder with students at North Paulding High School northwest of Atlanta. School officials later announced that six students and three staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus, and that the school would be closed Monday and Tuesday while the building is disinfected.
In Cherokee County, 12 students and two staff members from a dozen schools tested positive for the virus during their first week back at school. The Cherokee County school system reported that more than 250 students with potential exposure had been sent home to quarantine for two weeks.
Cherokee County also drew attention because of online photos. Dozens of students at two of its high schools squeezed together for first-day-of-school senior photos. None wore masks.
Georgia’s hospitalizations for COVID-19 are down, and “we are seeing the curve flatten on new cases,” Kemp said at the news conference. He also announced that a new testing site had recently opened near Atlanta’s airport.
“As I’ve said before, we have come a long way, but we are not out of the woods yet and we can not take our foot off the gas,” he added.
Kemp and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams both said that Georgians can expect to see newly reported cases as schools and businesses reopen.
“I want the people of Georgia to know that we don’t have to wait until we get a vaccine, we don’t have to hide until we get a miracle therapeutic,” Adams said.
“To the kids in schools I want you to understand, if you want prom in person next year, if you want to go to spring break, if you want an in-person graduation, then we need you to work together,” he added.
The surgeon general also appealed to major league sports teams to help persuade young people to wear masks.
“We need the Atlanta Falcons, we need the Atlanta Hawks, we need all the influencers out there who these teens look toward to be out promoting mask wearing, to have masks with cool designs on them, to make it a cool, a fun and exciting thing to do,” he said. “And if we do that we’ll see a lot more kids wearing masks than not wearing masks.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.