A photo of a group of teenagers huddled together in front of a high school has been slammed as “wilfully stupid” after more than 50 students and staff later tested to coronavirus.
Senior students at Etowah High School, in the US state of Georgia, posed for a photo on August 3 despite the ongoing pandemic. It’s not known if the school took the photo or a student did.
It was taken the same day the school reopened.
On Tuesday, Cherokee County School District superintendent Dr Brian Hightower said the school would be closed until August 31.
“Since we’ve reopened, and as of this morning, there have been 59 positive COVID-19 tests confirmed among our students and staff, which have led us to mandate two-week quarantines for 925 students and staff,” Dr Hightower said.
“We are not hesitating to quarantine students and staff who have had possible exposure – even if the positive test was prompted by possible exposure rather than symptoms, as all positive cases can lead to the infection of others.”
Cherokee County, where the school is located, has recorded 65 coronavirus deaths and more than 3,700 confirmed cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
People on Twitter were bewildered as to why the students didn’t social distance and posed for a photo together.
“It's the utter predictability of it all that's just exhausting,” one man tweeted.
Another man called it an act of “wilful stupidity”.
‘I won’t condemn 17-18 year olds’
The high school’s basketball coach Jason Dasinger wrote on Facebook he wishes the photo never took place. He also claims none of those in the photo fell ill to the virus.
“I won’t condemn 17-18 year olds,” he wrote.
“As a high school senior, I probably would have done the exact same thing (so would you).
“The pinnacle of your life at 17-18 is senior year and graduating. They were excited and continued a tradition at the school. Should the picture have taken place? No. Should these students receive death threats on social media? Absolutely not.”
When asked by Inside Edition if students at the school had been practising social distancing in the school’s hallways, student Jonathan Linville told the publication: “No, not at all”.
"My second period, we would have hundreds of people trying to pack down a staircase,” Jonathan told Inside Edition.
Mandy Birdsong, whose son is a student at Etowah High, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she wants the school to reopen with less students on campus by alternating attendance days.
Ms Birdsong said the family chose to send her boy back to school because he was struggling with online learning and missed his friends.
“It was a total cluster; they just crammed kids in a class,” she told the paper.
She added about 70 per cent of people in the area aren’t wearing masks either and could be influencing kids who chose not to wear them which is proving problematic.
Virus fears among school students
Other students in Georgia have also voiced their concern on returning to school.
Schools in Paulding County, outside the city of Atlanta, were back in the classroom last week despite coronavirus cases reported among students and staff.
On the first day back, Year 10 student Hannah Watters shared a photo on social media that has since gone viral. But behind the widely-shared image, a potentially deadly situation is unfolding which the school has been accused of trying to “sweep under the rug”.
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Hannah said a lack of meaningful precautions and only a small amount of mask wearing among students has left her feeling vulnerable.
“I feel very unsafe going back to school with the coronavirus. Especially with my school taking little precautions,” she said.
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