Paulding County school reports multiple COVID-19 cases after photo of packed hallways goes viral

The principal of North Paulding High School is alerting parents to newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students and staff.

In a letter sent to parents Saturday, principal Gabe Carmona says the school is aware of six students and three staff members who were at school last week and have since tested positive for the virus.

The positive tests come amid the fallout over photos taken by a sophomore showing packed hallways at the school during the first week of classes.

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Hannah Waters, 15, posted the images on Tuesday, which quickly went viral. School administrators then suspended Waters for violating phone and social media policies.

“There was no social distancing, a 10% mask use rate, it was chaos,” she said.

Paulding County’s 30,000 students had been offered a chance to learn remotely from home, but the system’s online learning slots filled up. Watters chose in-person learning, relying on assurances that the district could do this safely. She said she was “highly disappointed” that her district is making masks optional. She kept tallies of her classmates and found only a third were wearing masks.

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“Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them,” Superintendent Brian Ottot wrote to parents on Tuesday.

Friday morning, Waters says she was told her suspension had been lifted.

As of Saturday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Public Health reports Paulding County has had 1,651 confirmed cases of the virus, 22 deaths and 123 hospitalizations due to the virus since the pandemic started.

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