The Barrow County School System saw its most disruptive week of the school year in terms of the coronavirus pandemic as 10 students and six staff members tested positive for COVID-19 and 400 more students were kept out of or sent home from school for related reasons, according to the latest weekly data released by the district on Thursday, Nov. 19.

In addition to the 16 people who tested positive from Nov. 12-18, three more students and eight more employees were quarantined as a precaution due to a “probable” case of COVID-19. On top of that, 398 students and 33 employees were quarantined as the result of direct contact with a person with a confirmed-positive or probable case.

Winder Elementary School accounted for a large chunk of the latest student totals with 122 of the school’s roughly 600 students having to be kept out of or sent home from school as a precaution Wednesday, Nov. 18, and 53 were kept out Monday, Nov. 16. Bear Creek Middle had 59 students sent home or kept out and Statham Elementary had 31 on Nov. 16.

Each school day, the district records the number of students who either test positive or have direct contact with a positive test. The data provided to the public does not break out the actual number of positive cases at each individual school, nor does it specify how many students are actually out of school due to quarantine or isolation on a given day due to privacy concerns and since the amount of time a student has to miss varies case-to-case.

The weekly totals are the highest reported by the district since students began returning to in-person school Sept. 14. The district has implemented mask mandates and other enhanced mitigation measures since students returned to try to curb the spread of the pandemic, and roughly 140 employees have undergone contact-tracing training through a Johns Hopkins University program. And so far, the district has been able to avoid significant outbreaks and staffing shortages that would lead to campuses having to temporarily close.

But the latest numbers also come as the virus is seeing another resurgence across the U.S. Georgia and now in Barrow County, where the Department of Public Health confirmed another 32 cases Thursday — the most in a single day in the county since early September.

With Thanksgiving on tap, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Georgia Department of Public Health on Thursday issued guidance recommending that people avoid traveling for the holiday and instead staying home and celebrating with people in their own household. A lengthy list of guidelines for those who choose to celebrate with extended family can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

“The surge of COVID-19 infections in Georgia and across the country means we must rethink our idea of a traditional Thanksgiving this year,” DPH commissioner Kathleen Toomey said in a news release. “Each family must assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19, especially among elderly or medically fragile individuals, as they weigh the decision to host or attend a holiday gathering. Everyone needs to follow the guidance of wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing your hands frequently. And get a flu shot.”

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