Cobb County public health director advises families to consider virtual learning

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Cobb County’s top public health doctor is advising parents to go to virtual learning if they can.

She first made the statement during a COVID-19 update at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

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“I’m asking folks to not go out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even for school, if you are able to have your children go virtual, at this point, if you can do it, it is recommended,” said Dr. Janet Memark.

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The Cobb County School District continues to offer both face-to-face and virtual learning.

Channel 2 Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose spoke one-on-one with Memark on Wednesday.

“Cases are extremely high. The hospitals have been busier than they ever been. They are stretched. They are very much stretched right now,” said Memark. “We really are at a breaking point. We’ve got to bring this down somehow. So, I’m asking everybody to help us.”

Memark said community transmission is “extremely high.” The public health director and her team offers guidance for the school district.

“Did you advise the superintendent and Cobb County School District officials to go 100% virtual because of high transmission in our community?” asked Jose.

“No. We’ve talked about this and it’s something we have not recommended, because, I’ve told you guys before, it’s different from school-to-school,” said Memark. “Sometimes a school will only have one case. Sometimes you have a school with five to six cases. It has not been a blanket policy.”

“Some people may only have five kids in the classroom, so you might have to keep your kids in (face-to-face learning). In that situation it would be OK. Now, are you in a situation where everybody is right next to each other, and everybody is packed-in together? Are you able to keep your kids at home and do virtual learning for a while until the cases can come down? That might be a good option,” Memark continued.

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Memark said she told Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, ‘We have a low threshold here, cases are very high, jump on it as quickly as possible.’

“Do you still believe that in-school transmission remains low?” asked Jose.

“I think there’s a much higher risk now because we have so many community cases,” said Memark.

A Cobb County School District spokesperson confirmed Nickajack Elementary, Barber Middle School, Lindley 7/8, Hillgrove High School and Clay Harmony Leland Elementary will learn remotely for the rest of the week.

Memark said the health department continues to do external contact tracing, while staff members at schools handle it on campus.

Memark told Jose the district implemented a uniform procedure for second semester.

“As case rates went up higher, we all know it’s much more dangerous,” said Memark. “We had to make sure we were all on the same page and we had a meeting with everybody. We said, ‘Listen, you have to get this in as quickly as possible.’”

“We just made sure it was more uniform at this point, so we could protect as many people as we could,” added Memark.

Below is the full statement Jose received from a Cobb County School District spokesperson:

“As part of our ongoing commitment to student and staff safety and based on student, staff, and school needs, the District is making school-by-school closing decisions on an individual basis. Nickajack Elementary, Barber Middle School, Lindley 7/8, Hillgrove High School, and Clay Harmony Leland Elementary will learn remotely for the rest of this week. Despite social media posts to the contrary, the District is NOT transitioning to remote learning and remains committed to face-to-face and remote classroom options for students and parents.”

“We are committed to announcing any future closings as soon as decisions are made. Cobb Schools continues to partner with the Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department to make decisions concerning our district’s response to the pandemic. Whether face-to-face or in fully remote classrooms, Cobb teachers will continue to teach, and students will continue to learn, from everywhere.”

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