The Douglas County School System has no plans to mandate teachers and other staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

President Joe Biden last Thursday issued a series of mandates including a requirement for all employers with more than 100 workers to mandate either vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests.

However, the vaccine mandate, which is being imposed by the U.S. Department of Labor and its Occupational Safety and Health Agency, does not apply to state and local government workers in Georgia, according to the agency.

The Douglas County School System is the county’s largest employer with around 3,400 full-time employees.

“We do not intend to move in the direction of mandatory vaccination for employees,’’ said DCSS Executive Director of Communications Nell Boggs. “However, we are encouraging vaccination and have provided many opportunities for vaccination for our employees and students and will continue to do so.”

Biden’s order only applies to private employers in Georgia with more than 100 employees. That’s because Georgia is one of 24 states that do not have OSHA-approved workplace safety plans, Education Week reported.

Four states with state-level OSHA plans—Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, and Tennessee—currently prohibit school districts from requiring teacher vaccinations, bans that may be overridden by the new federal rule, according to Education Week. The remaining states with their own OSHA plans have left decisions about vaccine requirements to school districts.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce addressed Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in a Monday news release.

“Georgia employers and the Georgia Chamber have been working closely with Governor Kemp and state leaders to protect the lives and livelihoods of all citizens by encouraging mask-wearing, vaccination, and adherence to CDC guidelines as we navigate recovery together,” the Georgia Chamber said in the release. “Each workplace is different, and employers should continue to have the right to establish healthcare and vaccine policies that work for their businesses. The Georgia Chamber appreciates the extraordinary efforts of Georgia job creators to promote COVID-19 vaccines in ways that work for their employees.”

The Georgia Chamber said it will work closely with members to best understand their needs and concerns; engage in the Emergency Temporary Standard rulemaking public comment period to share members’ concerns and to oppose penalties like proposed OSHA fines; monitor legal challenges; provide guidance for compliance, continue to encourage vaccinations; and “encourage bipartisan solutions for this ongoing health crisis.”

New COVID-19 cases declining in Douglas, but hospitalizations remain at record highs

Community spread of COVID-19 remains high in Douglas County and across the state. But the number of positive cases is declining in Douglas.

The seven-day moving average of new cases was 79 on Monday, a decline from the seven-day average of 104.7 new cases on Sept. 6, according to state Department of Public Health data. Prior to Sept. 6, the highest seven-day average of new cases in Douglas was 109.6 back in mid-January.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health Director Dr. Janet Memark said in her weekly email update on Friday she hopes the decline in case numbers “is a trend” but she said “we won’t know until the Labor Day festivities are accounted for.”

Memark said that while hospitalizations appeared to be declining in Cobb, “Douglas County continues to have record high hospitalizations.”

Douglas County remains in high transmission status with a two-week case rate of 847 per 100,000 residents as of Monday. Anything at or above 100 cases per 100,000 people is considered high transmission.

In the past month, Douglas has seen 2,657 new cases and 15 new deaths from COVID-19, state DPH data from Aug. 13 to Sept. 13 shows.

“Like most of you, I hope that we are on the downslope of this latest surge,” Memark wrote in her update Friday. “Some folks have asked me about the next variant and what will happen. I don’t know exactly how bad it will be, but I do know if we continue to give this virus a chance to beat us, it will. Whatever the name of the next variant will be, we know that wearing your masks and getting vaccinated will still be part of the strategy to beat it.”

DCSS reported 160 new cases in local schools for the seven day period ending Sept. 9, down from 273 new cases for the week ending Sept. 2.

The school system is now showing the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff at each school on its website at dcssga.org.

At the elementary level, Sweetwater Elementary had eight new cases, which means 1.6% of the school’s students and staff tested positive over the seven-day period. Mason Creek Elementary also had eight new cases, which is 1.2% of students and staff at that school.

At the middle school level, Fairplay was tops with 15 new cases or 2.6% of all students and staff. At the high school level, Douglas County was tops with 18 new cases or 0.9% of students and staff, followed by Alexander with 14 new cases, or 0.7% of students and staff.