Fulton County Schools Close After Employee Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Last updated Tuesday at 8:37 a.m.

A Fulton County Schools employee has contracted COVID-19, according to a news release from the school system.

The school system plans to begin an “immediate dismissal at the impacted schools,” as stated in the release sent out on Monday afternoon. All county schools will be closed on Tuesday to allow for sanitizing at affected schools, according to a message on the school system’s website.

Related: See complete coverage and resources about the coronavirus outbreak in Georgia >>

Fulton Schools Superintendent Mike Looney said the teacher came in contact with students and faculty at Bear Creek and Woodland Middle Schools. The teacher is currently at an undisclosed hospital.

Those schools and nearby Creekside High School closed early as a precaution.

Looney said he decided to close the district’s 100-plus schools to allow for disinfecting schools, to let health officials follow up with potentially infected students and teachers and to “pause to assess the potential additional risk that our school community might face.” Looney said the district would decide Tuesday afternoon whether it would reopen on Wednesday. The district has more than 93,000 students.

“Until we can understand the breadth of this particular issue, I think caution is better than negligence,” Looney said.

Looney said the district has a virtual learning plan, but said it wouldn’t begin until schools have been closed for three days.

The Department of Health will be contacting families and staff for additional guidance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has 1,500 employees working on the coronavirus response.

“I think as a community, as the United States, I think we can mitigate the impact of this disease, and as long as we can work together, that will be the CDC’s goal,” CDC’s Nancy Messonnier said.

Georgia Update

A total of 17 people in the state have now tested positive for COVID-19, though some of the tests have yet to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Brian Kemp says Georgians should prepare for more cases as more people get tested for the virus.

“The more testing that gets done, the more positives we’re gonna have,” he said.

Georgia officials are asking anyone who is sick not to go to work or to large events.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga, said in a statement on Monday he was notified that he was in a photo with a person who attended a recent political conference and who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.

“Several” members of Congress had contact with the person, but remain in good health, the Capitol’s attending physician said. Collins said he feels “completely healthy,” but has decided to isolate himself for the remainder of a 14-day quarantine period.

Health officials say they don’t know how the most recent COVID-19 infections happened in Georgia, though all of the cases are in the metro Atlanta area.

Kemp said late Sunday the people in the four recent cases are from Fulton, Cobb and Cherokee counties, but have no connection to each other. They were hospitalized as of Sunday.

Test results by the state health lab are awaiting confirmation by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King is asking health insurance companies to prepare for COVID-19 and to waive some fees for patients. King says the number one priority is making sure Georgians can get testing and treatment.

“We’re asking insurers to waive office, urgent care center, and emergency room copays for testing for the virus,” he said. “We’re also asking them to evaluate their provider network to ensure it can handle the potential increase in need for services related to Covid-19.”

Making Preparations

Georgia officials, meanwhile, are turning part of a state park into a site where they can isolate and monitor coronavirus patients, the governor’s office said.

The office stressed in a news release Monday that state officials are making the preparations at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County “out of an abundance of caution,” and no patients are currently scheduled to be transferred there.

Officials have already installed seven emergency trailers at the park about 50 miles east of Atlanta. The Department of Public Safety will provide security, the governor’s office said.

Cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed in a total of five people in Fulton, Cobb and Polk counties. The Polk County resident had previously been reported as from Floyd County.

Those from Fulton County include a 56-year-old man who had returned to Atlanta from Milan, Italy, on Feb. 22, and his son.

The 46-year-old Polk County woman had gone twice to a Georgia emergency center with flu-like symptoms in February but was originally turned down for testing because she had not traveled abroad or had known of any contact with travelers from abroad.

Cruise Ship Docks

Dozens of Americans on a cruise ship that pulled into the Port of Oakland Monday are expected to arrive Monday night or Tuesday at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, officials said Sunday. This includes 34 Georgia residents who will be monitored in their homes.

“They will be able to be in their homes,” State Health Director Kathleen Toomey said of the Georgia residents. “We will check in with them — our public health staff, both state staff and local staff in the public health districts. This both ensures the safety of the public, but also gives them the comfort and support of being at home.”

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.