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Nine people test positive for coronavirus at Georgia school captured in viral images

The school will close Monday and Tuesday for a deep cleaning, an official said.
A Georgia teen posted online of her high school, where students appear packed into the hallways. The images quickly went viral.
A Georgia teen posted online of her high school, where students appear packed into the hallways. The images quickly went viral.NBC News
/ Source: NBC News

The Georgia high school captured in viral images last week that showed hallways packed with students will temporarily close after nine people at the school tested positive for COVID-19, the district's superintendent said in a letter Sunday.

The letter, from Paulding County School Superintendent Brian Otott to parents of North Paulding High School students, was obtained by NBC News. The letter didn't provide additional details about who contracted the disease or what their conditions are.

Students will use a "digital learning" model Monday and Tuesday while the school undergoes deep cleaning, the letter says. Otott says the number of cases could increase if pending tests also return positive results.

The school will alert parents Tuesday night whether in-person classes will resume.

School officials didn't return a request for comment Sunday.

North Paulding, which is nearly an hour northwest of Atlanta, drew scrutiny after its fall semester began last Monday. A student tweeted images showing other students, many of whom weren't wearing masks, standing shoulder to shoulder in the hallways.

"Day two at North Paulding High School," the student, Hannah Watters, said in the image. "It is just as bad. We were stopped because it was jammed. We are close enough to the point where I got pushed. ... This is not ok. Not to mention the 10% mask rate."

Hannah was suspended for using her phone without permission on school grounds and other matters. The suspension was later reversed.

In an open letter to the school community, Otott said critics were unfairly using the image to disparage the district's reopening efforts.

"Under the COVID-19 protocols we have adopted, class changes that look like this may happen, especially at a high school with more than 2,000 students," Otott wrote. "Keep in mind that this situation complies with the Georgia Department of Education's" reopening guidelines that "limit the congregation of students during transitions to the 'extent practicable.'"

"Now, with that said, there is no question that photo does not look good," he added.

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