Though Fulton County Schools cancelled class Tuesday after a teacher was determined to be infected with coronavirus, school closures in other areas of Georgia are not recommended, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
On Monday, Fulton County Schools, which encompasses Atlanta, was notified by the Fulton County Department of Health that an employee was diagnosed with coronavirus, according to a news release.
The employee, a teacher at Bear Creek Middle School and Woodland Middle School in the cities of Fairburn and East Point, felt ill and was admitted to a local hospital.
"Based on concerns of possible exposure, the schools were immediately dismissed Monday and all students and staff were sent home," according to the release. The district remained closed Tuesday to disinfect and clean school buildings, but the duration of the closure has yet to be determined.
Woods said the department supported the decision by Fulton County Superintendent Mike Looney.
"We are advising all Georgia school districts to continue following the guidance of the Georgia Department of Public Health and their local boards of health. At this time, school closures are not recommended for other areas," Woods said in a statement Tuesday.
Murray County Schools also alerted families Tuesday evening that at least one teacher and one student in Murray County had come into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Both have been advised by medical professionals to self-quarantine at home for at least 14 days post-exposure.
The majority of other school districts, particularly those in North Georgia, remain unimpacted and don't anticipate closures yet, but schools and universities across the region are preparing for outbreaks.
Catoosa County Public Schools Superintendent Denia Reese sent a letter to students and families, assuring them that the district remains vigilant.
"I know there is a very high level of concern about the Coronavirus. As your Superintendent, and a mother, I want you to be confident that monitoring updates from public health agencies and taking preventative measures to disinfect our schools is my highest priority," Reese said.
Catoosa County Schools have a "pandemic plan in place," according to Reese, and the system is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and local health department organizations, as advised by the Georgia Department of Education.
Like most school districts, Catoosa County has a digital learning plan in place for students if school closures become widespread or continue for an extended length of time.
Pat Holloway, spokesperson for Dalton Public Schools, called the situation "unprecedented."
Dalton Public Schools sent a letter home with students last week that not only assured parents that the district is making sure schools are clean, but also that learning will be able to continue no matter what.
"We've sent a letter home to our parents last week letting them know that we are aware of the situation and that we are taking preventive measures," Holloway said. "Our information technology team is working to prepare lessons for schools on our digital learning platform."
The incubation period for the coronavirus is about 14 days, and Dalton schools officials' goals are that students will "be able to continue learning for that period of time," Holloway said.
The CDC has warned the American public to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel, or new, coronavirus, and reported cases have increased across the United States over the past week.
Last Thursday, a 44-year-old man from Williamson County tested positive for coronavirus, the first in Tennessee. On Monday, a Brentwood, Tennessee parent notified Williamson County Schools that they had tested positive for the coronavirus and had recently visited a school, prompting the district to also close Tuesday, after already closing Friday and Monday for cleaning.
At least two students at the private school Battle Ground Academy in Williamson County have have underwent testing for the coronavirus, according to The Tennessean.
At least seven cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Tennessee as of Tuesday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, but the state is not providing the specific location of the cases. There have been at least 17 cases confirmed in Georgia as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Georgia education department continues to encourage schools to prepare for possible closures, take preventative measures and allow time for students to practice healthy hygiene practices.
"All school districts should continue to take preventative measures, including providing ample time for students and staff to wash their hands and developing plans to continue student learning should your school district need to close for several days," Woods said in a statement.
Contact Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.
Read Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods' full statement on COVID-19:
"After being notified that an employee had been diagnosed with COVID-19 (coronavirus), Fulton County Schools made the decision to close all schools today and to make an announcement about next steps by 5 p.m. [Tuesday]. We support this decision and thank Superintendent Mike Looney for his leadership and for taking care to ensure students' safety. We are advising all Georgia school districts to continue following the guidance of the Georgia Department of Public Health and their local boards of health. At this time, school closures are not recommended for other areas. All school districts should continue to take preventative measures, including providing ample time for students and staff to wash their hands and developing plans to continue student learning should your school district need to close for several days. Parents should keep children who are sick at home – don't send them to school. Teach your children to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and to stay at least three feet away from people who are sick. Georgians can be confident the safety of our students is our first priority. I thank Governor Kemp for acting proactively to protect all Georgians. We will continue to work closely with him and with Public Health to ensure schools have the most up-to-date information, resources, and support regarding COVID-19."