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Allendale County schools go virtual; Fort Gordon center closes

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 4:37 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Allendale County school district is going virtual and the Fort Gordon School Age Center is closed as a new surge of COVID cases sweeps the region.

The Fort Gordon center will be closed through Sept. 6 due to the rise in coronavirus cases being driven by the ultra-contagious delta variant.

Allendale County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Margaret Gilmore announced Thursday afternoon on Facebook that the district has seen an uptick in positive COVID-19 tests, resulting in quarantines for students and employees.

The post read that because of the increase in positive cases across the district, after consulting with DHEC about the risk factors involved and with the safety of our children being of the utmost importance, the district will transition to electronic learning through Sept. 8.

Students will complete all assignments from home and will return to face-to-face instruction on Sept. 9, Gilmore said.

All schools, district office and buses will undergo a deep cleaning while students are away.

“These measures are put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, staff, parents and the entire community,” Gilmore said.

Lunches will be delivered on Tuesday and Thursday of next week to specified drop-off locations, she said.

All athletic practices and competitions are also suspended until Sept. 8.

Going virtual is one of the last tools left for South Carolina school districts to stop the spread of coronavirus in students, since state officials have banned them from enacting mask mandates in classrooms — although the state Department of Education said Thursday it would reinstate a mask mandate on buses.

Despite the state banning mask mandates, Gilmore started the school year with a video stating that “all employees and all students will wear a mask on campus and on the bus.” Once that was reported in the media, she said it was meant to be a strong suggestion and not a mandate.

Also closed is the Horse Creek Academy in Aiken County due to a high number of students quarantined.

Other districts across the region that have gone virtual include those in Screven, Glascock, Burke and Taliaferro counties. Taliaferro and Burke counties are planning for students to return Monday.

Other districts have to hybrid schedules that keep students at home some days and bring them to campus on others, ensuring that not all students are on campus at the same time.

Also in response to the surge, the Columbia County School System mandated that mask be worn in buildings and Aiken County Superintendent King Laurence pleaded with parents and students to do what they could to stop the spread.

How hospitals are coping

The wave of coronavirus cases is keeping hospitals busy.

In the chart below, you can see the current surge in hospitalizations in the Georgia portion of the CSRA:

Here’s a look at Thursday’s inpatients statistics for local hospitals:

  • University Hospital: 124 COVID inpatients, up five from Wednesday. Of those 124 inpatients, 109 have not been vaccinated. Of the 12 on ventilators, 10 are unvaccinated, and of the 15 in intensive care, 12 are unvaccinated.
  • Augusta University Health: 106 COVID inpatients, 102 of whom are unvaccinated. Of the 51 patients in intensive care and 42 on ventilators, all are unvaccinated.
  • Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center: 18 inpatients, up one from Wednesday. Eight are in intensive care.
  • Aiken Regional Medical Center: 44 COVID inpatients, up three from Wednesday. Nine are in intensive care.
  • Doctors Hospital: 66 COVID inpatients, up one from Wednesday.

Due to the COVID surge and he increase in children the delta variant is striking, hospitals across the country are dealing in some cases with record numbers of patients.

On the other side of the Peach State, Albany is an example of an area that’s suffering.

The intensive care units at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital typically have room for 38 patients, and doctors and nurses may have only two or three people who are very sick, said Dr. Jyotir Mehta, medical director of the ICU. On Wednesday, the ICU had 50 COVID-19 patients alone, roughly half of them relying on ventilators to breathe.

“I don’t think we have experienced this much critical illness in folks, so many people sick at the same time,” Mehta said.

He said talking to family members is difficult. “They are grasping for every hope and you’re trying to tell them, ‘Look, it’s bad,’” he said. “You have to tell them that your loved one is not going to make it.”

Also on that side of Georgia, Dr. Flavia Rossi, medical director at Affinity Pediatrics, said she’s seeing COVID-19 in all ages, from newborn to 18 years old.

“The kids with the delta strain are a lot sicker than we saw with the alpha strain,” said Rossi.

“If they need to go to pediatric ICU then we are transferring them to the closest children’s hospital that has availability. Because that’s been another issue, everyone’s full,” said Rossi.

In some cases, they are sending kids to Augusta or out of state if there are no beds available.

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