Graduation party sparks cluster of new coronavirus cases



One graduation party in Atlanta caused a spike in coronavirus cases, resulting in a 20% increase in less than a week. It’s a reminder that even if a state is re-opening, precautions against the spread of the virus still need to be taken.

Georgia is one of the first states to reopen after a general lockdown of all businesses and activities deemed non-essential to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. By most accounts, the state has been successful in its efforts. COVID-19 cases have largely flattened. Public health officials report that while there hasn’t been a reduction in transmission, there hasn’t been a spike in the transmission of cases since reopening began a month ago. The good news is that mitigation is working and reopening in a disciplined, targeted way has produced success so far.

Georgia has had over 43,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, or just over 400 per 100,000 residents, and over 1,800 coronavirus deaths, or 17 per 100,000 residents, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The per-capita numbers are in the upper-middle of the pack among US states, on par with Mississippi and Virginia but slightly higher than nearby Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina.

Schools across the country are finding innovative ways to honor the graduating class of 2020 though the traditional parties and gatherings have been put on hold until safer times. One group of high school students in Atlanta is in the news for violating social distancing recommendations. A senior parade was hosted on the campus of The Lovett School, a private school in north Atlanta, on May 17. (The school, which goes from kindergarten through 12th grade, has been closed since March 15.) Practicing social distancing guidelines, all of the students and their families were confined to their cars. The school’s 75 staff members attending were socially distanced along the street leading through the campus. That’s all well and good but what happened afterward caused problems for an upscale Atlanta neighborhood that spans five zip codes.

The Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta has seen an increase of 100 new cases in just five days, an increase of 20% in three of the five zip codes associated with the area. The cluster of new cases is being traced back to one student’s graduation party, allegedly the son of a doctor. Head of School Meredyth Cole and Head Nurse Shana Horan sent out an email to let parents know that 30 students have tested positive, though it is unclear how many attended the party. The school officials advised students get tested if any symptoms surface and where to get a free test.

“Because we are committed to helping the Lovett community stay healthy, we want to let you know that the school has been notified by several class of 2020 families that their students have tested positive for COVID-19,” they said. “Unfortunately the infectious nature of the COVID-19 virus means that most communities will be touched at some point, and we recognize how hard separation and missed milestones have been on the emotional lives of our students. Families of the students diagnosed with COVID-19 are working with the appropriate healthcare professionals and Departments of Health.”

The school isn’t naming names or disclosing the number of seniors who are now infected. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how many people can be affected by one person’s exposure. That is one of the most troubling aspects of the coronavirus – how rapidly it spreads. Each high school graduate who attended the party went home and exposed his or her family to the virus, along with any other friends he or she hung out with before being tested. Remember the funeral of a Georgia man at the end of February that is now labeled as a “super spreading event” due to the impact it had on the community from the virus?

A school spokesperson says that though the school did everything right as far as social distancing goes with the car parade for seniors, they have since been notified that there were off-campus celebrations that likely spread the virus.

“The notifications were made several days after a socially distanced drive-by senior parade occurred; an in-person graduation has been postponed to late July,” Fowler said. “The school has been made aware of several off-campus social gatherings but has no information on any private events. Families of the graduates diagnosed with COVID-19 are working with the appropriate healthcare professionals and Departments of Health.

Parents are alarmed, to state the obvious, and there are concerns about schools reopening, as well as their graduating students starting college in the fall.

‘They clearly disregarded social distancing. Not only did they get it, they gave it to their parents and their neighborhoods,’ he said.

‘It’s not going to be isolated. The kids were together for 48 hours. Kids cross populate. It’s a very interconnected neighborhood.’

The parent, who didn’t want to be named, isn’t blaming the school for the outbreak but, instead, says other parents are acting ‘irresponsibly’.

‘The school technically did everything right,’ the parent said.

‘As you can see in this case, children believe they’re not going to get and their parents aren’t holding them accountable.

‘These are healthy children. If they can get it, anyone can get.

‘As these kids get it they will take it to college campuses. There’s no way the math won’t perpetuate this worse. I think we’ve set ourselves up for real failure.’

The parent went on to point a finger of blame at the state for reopening, claiming Georgia began reopening too early. Malarkey. That’s not been proven the case at all. That is a parent wanting to protect his child, which is understandable but blaming the wrong people. The school followed the guidelines, it was the parent (s) who helped put on a party for the graduates that are at fault, it seems – in this case, a doctor’s son, no less. You know his parents footed the bill for whatever was going on with that party.





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