Was a Georgia High School’s Senior Class Photographed Together Without Masks?

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The senior class at Etowah High School in Georgia was photographed together without wearing face coverings in August 2020.

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Online criticism concerning safety measures in schools trying to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic circulated around a second Georgia school in August 2020 as a photo spread online showing an entire senior class gathered together without face coverings.

Etowah High School gained attention after the Twitter account “Everything Georgia” posted the class photograph on August 3 2020 explaining, “Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, today Etowah High School in Cherokee County started their first day of school. Here’s a seniors photo that was taken this morning.”

The photograph spread even further when it was posted to the Facebook group “The Other 98%” with the caption, “Not a mask in sight and ZERO social distancing. If this is what [Donald] Trump & Betsy DeVos meant by opening schools safely then God help us all.” The group’s post was shared more than 10,000 times on that platform.

Etowah High officials have not publicly addressed the class photograph, but a spokesperson for its own governing body, the Cherokee County School District, told WXIA-TV that “masks are not mandated for students — they are strongly encouraged and recommended. The fact that masks would not be mandated for students is known to all CCSD parents, as it has been repeatedly communicated to them since the reopening plan was announced July 8.”

The district further told Associated Press that officials only heard about the class photograph after it spread online, since it was not an official school function.

The photograph’s spread mirrored that of another photo taken inside a school in Paulding County, about 30 miles away from Etowah High, with both going viral amid a slight decrease statewide in the amount of positive tests for COVID-19 as well as newly confirmed cases.

AP also reported that the state hit a new weekly high mark for deaths on August 4 2020, with an average of 51 deaths from the disease across the prior week.

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