Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North said making everyone 16-and-older eligible for the COVID-19 will have a “positive impact” on the district.
North’s remarks came days after Gov. Brian Kemp opened eligibility for the vaccine to the rest of the population effective March 25. The first vaccine doses were given to health care workers in December.
The school system has offered an in-person learning option since September. School started entirely online last August.
Since schools opened their doors, the district has not had to shut down due the pandemic, which Cobb & Douglas Public Health Director Dr. Janet Memark recently attributed to the precautions local schools are taking — including social distancing and mask wearing — and the quick response by North to any potential problems.
“Having a segment of our 16-year-olds vaccinated is exciting news for our school system,” North said. “This will have a positive impact on our school system’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.”
In conjunction with CDPH and its school nurses, DCSS vaccinated about 1,200 teachers and staff at the mass site earlier this month. The second dose is scheduled for April 16-17 at the mall.
While North was happy about the addition of some high school-age students being added to the eligibility roles, he was cautious about the overall impact on the system.
“Statistically, we don’t expect it to impact students in grades K-8, because they are not yet eligible for the vaccine,” he said.
No decision has been made on where graduation will be held for the Class of 2021.
DCSS is looking at either holding graduations at the University of West Georgia, where commencement exercises are usually held, or moving them back to each school’s campus.
Last July, at the height of the pandemic, schools held on-campus graduations with a two-guest limit. Douglas County High held its graduation at New Manchester because of renovations to its stadium.
North said a formal decision will be made by April 27.
“We will base our final decision on what we feel will be the safest way for our families to celebrate the milestone while staying in alignment with federal and state guidelines,” North said.
North said details for proms will be left up to each individual school.
Memark said CDPH been increasing staff to accommodate the increased number of residents eligible for the vaccine, with a goal of vaccinating 800-1,000 people each day at the mall site.
Last year, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners gave the CDPH upwards of $1.5 million for COVID-19 related expenses through its CARES Act funding.
“I believe although the vaccine is not mandatory, it is highly recommended by our public health officials to get vaccinated and citizens should,” BOC Chairman Romona Jackson Jones said of the governor’s announcement opening the vaccine up to everyone 16-and-older. “This announcement is a win-win situation for all, especially Douglas County citizens. We must remain cautious as more and more people get vaccinated by continuing to be vigilant in following the guidelines of our health officials. I am hearing of some vaccine hesitancy and I truly want to encourage how critical it is for everyone eligible to get the vaccine, as recommended by our public health officials. The faster we can get everyone vaccinated, the faster we can get back to normal and celebrate a community comeback.”
A study released Monday that was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines reduced the risk of infection by 80% after one shot and 90% after the second dose, according to the Washington Post.
The study included about 4,000 health care workers, police and firefighters and other essential workers and is significant, the CDC said, because it analyzed how well the vaccines worked among a diverse group of front-line workers whose jobs make them more likely to contract the coronavirus.