Why the concerns about schools, masks and COVID: The above graphic tracks youth COVID cases from March 2020 until now. On the far right, you’ll see the lines soaring upward, with the purple line representing those ages 10 through 17. The burnt orange is ages 5 through 9; the light orange, ages 1 through 4; and the blue, infants.
Each is up, way up, and at the highest points of the pandemic. Among the reasons: Many of these youngters have yet to be vaccinated. (Click here for expanded reports).
The chart shows you why the intense concern in the medical community and by some parents and now School Board members concerning the spread of the Delta variant. On Monday, six Floyd County Schools join four Rome City Schools in requiring students, faculty and staff wear masks. On Friday, Floyd reported 143 students with COVID — a surge of around 100 cases in a week; Thursday numbers from Rome show 49 student and staff cases; that’s up from 28 cases on Aug. 16.
In Polk County, 125 students and staff had COVID last week. In Bartow County, 154 cases. Cartersville City Schools jumped from 3 to 67 reports in a week. Add 20 cases from Berry College and that’s 580 COVID patients for the week (Gordon County has yet to report to the community).
On Friday, Floyd County School Board member Danny Waits emphasized the challenges he and others are facing: Keeping kids safe while ensuring they’re educated. It is a critical balancing act as virtual learning has had mixed results. We do not envy Waits or anyone in this position. But we commend he and others for finally confronting the COVID spread and taking the first steps in further protecting students, faculty and staff. They’re going to face even tougher choices as the variant spreads.
And school boards are not alone. Elsewhere today, in our Ahead of the Headlines feature, you’ll see the agendas for Monday’s Rome City Commission meeting and Tuesday’s Floyd County Commission meeting. We read and then did formal key word searches of both agendas and found zero reference to the pandemic that has claimed the life of seven Rome/Floyd residents since Aug. 2 and infect another 839. That could change or the pandemic could be dressed in reports by the chair of each board.
The city of Rome has no mask guidance at this time save for the municipal courts. The county requires masks at all indoor offices. Yes, we’re aware of the latest executive order that challenges local ordinances on masks and vaccinations. We’re likewise heartened by the governments statewide rebuking it and seeking a federal overrride to election-baiting decisions.
Our school systems, now keenly aware of the surging dangers of the Delta variant, have taken the first steps. With meetings already scheduled this week, it is time for other local governments to do the same.
Need more reasons why? The age group falling ill the most to the Delta variant are those 18 to 29 followed by 30 to 39 and then 40 to 49 and 50 to 59. Unlike the last time, our senior population is in better shape as most have embraced vacciations.
Jeremy Green, coach of the year: The football game postponements and cancellations at Armuchee High School in the 2020 season are well documented. And now the 2021 season has started with a line through the King’s Academy game, an all-but-guaranteed “W” for AHS.
The reason? It was Head Coach Jeremy Green’s call. As he explained in a Facebook post to the community: He wanted to ” focus on getting kids healthy or ensuring that they are healthy.” He also wrote that “the safety and well-being of our players will always be my first priority and that is not something I’m willing to compromise on.”
Nine players have or recently have had COVID (this came up at Friday’s School Board meeting). But Green made his decision before the county voted to change COVID protocols. Again, this was his decision and he stood alone for several days.
Green took a stand for his team and his team only. No politics, no pressure. That’s a quality we need in government — as well as in those leading our youth.
Education extra penny sales tax comin’ around again: In recent weeks, Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars has been talking about a needed new middle school, a replacement for the campus adjoining Rome High. The current campus was built for 750 students but currently has around 1,000.
Also, Floyd County’s Board of Education is already arranging meetings to assemble a shopping list.
Together, you’re seeing the quiet phase of the extra penny tax push begin. The current education tax, approved by voters in November 2017, expires in April 2024 with a combined targeted income of $80 million for city and county schools.
That gives educators a time to assemble a wish list for the extra penny tax and then present it to voters.
You can bet another “general” extra penny tax is brewing as well.
Background: A closer look at the 2017 education extra penny sales tax.
PEAKS & VALLEYS: The highs and lows of Northwest Georgia.
Peak to the 4,000 Northwest Georgias who stepped up to get their first vaccine dose between Aug. 13 and Aug. 20. We have a long way to go but those are serious numbers. As of Friday, 34% of area residents were fully vaccinated — roughly one third.
Perhaps our deepest valley ever to Brian Kemp: Those who thought his baseless allegations of election hacks before the November 2018 general election was a low point need to adjust their charts. To attempt to circumvent local governments as they fight a raging pandemic in an obvious pandering for votes is the new low point. Remember that in the 2022 primaries and general election.
Peak to the municipal candidates who qualified for the Nov. 2 elections. This is not an easy time to govern, with a raging pandemic and serious political splits. We thank all for taking the first step toward public service, incumbents and challengers. Bonus points to all school board candidates.