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tients have been vaccinated but are not on ventilators.

According to DPH’s COVID-19 online dashboard, as of September 7, the cumulative area totals since March 2020, when statistics were first available, are:

• Toombs County,

4,024 confirmed cases, 231 hospitalizations, and 122 confirmed deaths; • Montgomery Coun – ty, 1,003 confirmed cases, 50 hospitalizations, and 23 confirmed deaths; • Treutlen County, 804

confirmed cases, 58 hospitalizations, and 33 confirmed deaths; • Wheeler County, 574

confirmed cases, 41 hospitalizations, and 23 confirmed deaths.

Area Schools Update

Montgomery County School officials announced Friday that the system has transitioned to virtual learning for two weeks because of the massive number of staff, specifically bus drivers, that are absent because of COVID.

The school system reports a total of 17 staff members have tested positive for the virus. Ten additional staff are quarantined due to direct exposure to others with the virus. These absences account for 18% of the staff. The number of student absences due to COVID also increased dramatically. Montgomery County Schools reported online that 39 students are absent because of testing positive for COVID, while 157 students remain quarantined.

Interim Superintendent Mark Davidson explained that going entirely virtual for classes is not what the administration desired, but the move will allow staff and students to have time to quarantine and heal from sickness and return to normal school procedures. “The decision was made reluctantly, but continued from page

without hesitation after all the data was reviewed,” Davidson said. “We understand that virtual learning may not be ideal, but with our current situation, we firmly believe that this decision is in the best interest of the students, staff, and community.”

To adequately prepare students for virtual learning, the schools allowed students to take their Chromebooks home to have the means to work on their assignments. The school system also set up several Wi-Fi hotspots that students may travel to for internet access.

These hotspots include: the Eagle Academy side parking lot, Heartland Academy parking lot, Harvest Chapel Church, Mount Vernon Housing Authority, and Uvalda City Hall. By the end of the week, other hotspots will be available at Three Rivers Public Safety building in Uvalda, Alston City Hall, Tarrytown Firehouse, Higgston City Park, Calvary’s Grace Baptist Church, Big Al’s Country Market, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, and Ruth’s Chapel Methodist Church. Students are strongly encouraged to socially distance while using these Wi-Fi areas.

Meals will continue to be provided for all students who wish to partake in school lunch. Bus routes to every residence cannot be completed because of a shortage of bus drivers, but there are several locations distributing school lunches from 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Monday-Thursday of each week. These locations are Uvalda City Hall, Alston City Hall, Tarrytown Firehouse, Higgston City Park, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Three Rivers Safety Building, Montgomery County Elementary School, and Montgomery County Middle/ High School.

Athletics will continue as normal at the middle and high school and will continue to follow Georgia High School Association (GHSA) guidelines regarding COVID and athletics.

In-seat learning will resume as normal on Monday, September 20, if it is deemed safe and practical to do such. Toombs County Schools reports 1.99% of their students, totaling 59 students, are absent because of a positive COVID status. A low percentage of staff—4.2% or 18 staff members—are also absent due to being ill with COVID.

Vidalia City Schools reports 33 students and 5 staff are absent due to being COVID-positive. These totals account for less than 2% of the school population. Wheeler County Schools and Wheeler County Health Department will host a vaccination event on September 22 in the Wheeler County High School cafeteria from 3-5 p.m. Adults and students ages 12 and older will receive the Pfizer vaccine; also, students who received their first dosage of the vaccine on September 1 can receive their second dosage at this time. For students to receive the vaccine, a parent or guardian must accompany them to the event to provide a written consent for the administration of the vaccination. All those with insurance should bring their insurance cards. The school system reports 16 students are currently absent due to being COVID-positive; however, of these 16 students, 7 were not present during their infectious period. A total of 110 students were quarantined as of September 3, but 64 students were projected to return September 7. One staff member is currently absent for quarantine based on a nonschool related exposure to COVID. Vidalia Heritage Academy reported on Tuesday morning that it had six COVID positive students and no staff positive for the virus. Robert Toombs Christian Academy did not return repeated phone calls regarding its COVID status.

State Statistics

The state passed its previous January high for positive COVID tests on August 31. The rolling seven-day average for positive COVID- 19 tests rose to 9,641 per day on August 31, topping the previous January 11 high of 9,635, according to Georgia Department of Public Health figures. As infections continue to increase, more schools are sending children home to learn remotely. Officials say the rapid spread among children is an aspect of the pandemic. Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said that cases have substantially increased since schools opened in early August. “We’re seeing a significant number of cases among school-aged children, and the number of cases has nearly quadrupled over the last couple of weeks, with the sharpest increase, the highest number of cases, in children aged 11 to 17,” Toomey said. She said public health officials tracked more than 170 outbreaks statewide the last week in August, the highest number since the pandemic began, with more than half of them in schools. “So schools are a site where there is transmission going on,” Toomey said.

More than half of Georgia’s students are now under a mask mandate, according to announcements tracked by The Associated Press, but state officials have left it lto ocal officials to decide. The number of people hospitalized statewide with the respiratory illness approached 5,700 August 31, just below the all-time record.

Recent Death Notices