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Nine People Have Tested Positive For COVID-19 At The Georgia School That Went Viral For Crowded Hallway Photos

The school suspended in-person classes for two days after six students and three staff members tested positive for the virus.

Last updated on August 9, 2020, at 6:28 p.m. ET

Posted on August 9, 2020, at 12:22 p.m. ET

Students wait in a crowded school hallway
Hannah Watters

Six students and three staff members tested positive for the coronavirus at North Paulding High School after photos of crowded hallways with maskless students at the Georgia school went viral.

Principal Gabe Carmona confirmed the positive COVID-19 cases in a letter sent to parents Saturday that was first reported on by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ABC News.

The students and staff who tested positive were in school "for at least some time last week" when the photos of crowded hallways went viral, Saturday's letter stated. Carmona said the affected students and staff reported their test results to school officials.

On Sunday, Paulding County School District Superintendent Brian Otott announced that there will be no in-person instruction at the school on Monday and Tuesday owing to the nine cases "along with the possibility that that number could increase," according to a letter posted to Twitter by Hannah Watters, one of the students who were initially suspended for sharing the photos.

Otott said the school will be "thoroughly cleansed and disinfected" on Monday and Tuesday and that parents and students would be notified on Tuesday if in-person classes would resume or not.

"This is not what I have been stressing," Watters, 15, tweeted. "Shutting down has never been what I wanted. This letter could have easily said that they made masks mandatory, but no."

This is not what I have been stressing. Shutting down has never been what I wanted. This letter could have easily said that they made masks mandatory, but no. Paulding hasn’t made masks mandatory due to Gov. Kemp. If we had opened safely, with masks, we could still go to school.

The school district has chosen not to enforce mask-wearing, calling it a "personal choice," even though the CDC now recommends their use. The letter did not mention any changes to that policy or guidance on wearing face coverings.

"I apologize for any convenience this schedule change may cause, but hopefully we all can agree that the health and safety of our students and staff takes precedence over any other considerations at this time," Otott wrote in the letter.

In Saturday's letter, Carmona wrote that the school was "continuing to adjust and improve our protocols for in-person instruction to make our school the safest possible learning environment."

"In each case we are following DPH recommendations for reporting. Our custodial staff continues to thoroughly clean and disinfect the school building daily, and especially affected areas," Carmona wrote.

The letter did not include additional information about the cases. Students and staff who have tested positive, as well as "any identified close contacts, must quarantine for at least 14 days and cannot return to school until they have completed all the requirements of the DPH's guidance for persons infected with COVID-19," the letter said.

Carmona and representatives for the school district did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment Sunday.

The district initially suspended Watters and a second student for posting the images that went viral but reversed the suspensions on Friday following backlash.

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