The latest surge of COVID-19 cases has continued to sweep Walton County, forcing a delay in the return of in-person learning at Social Circle schools and causing hospitals to adapt.

Piedmont Walton Hospital was not accepting ambulances from outside the county on Tuesday morning.

The Social Circle City Schools are having digital learning days the remainder of the week, after originally planning to return to class Wednesday. Walton County schools were expecting to welcome students back to class Wednesday but warned parents to prepare to change their plans if a rise in the number of cases means classes must go to digital learning.

In a letter to parents Sunday, Social Circle Superintendent Robbie Hooker said a study of Georgia Department of Public Health data for Walton and surrounding counties left district administrators “not confident that we have sufficient available staff members to operate our schools safely.”

Monday and Tuesday already were digital learning days, Assistant Superintendent Carrie Booher said.

In the week before Christmas break, nearly 9% of the district’s employees and students were in precautionary quarantine.

The Walton County School District had 80 new cases in the week ending Dec. 17, the last date for which numbers were available.

At the hospital, workers continue to monitor the growing caseload.

“Across the entire health system, we continue to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19, especially as the country experiences this third surge,” spokeswoman Sydney Devine said.

“Each of our hospitals reviews available resources daily related to current COVID volume, and where possible, we continue to shift resources as needed to maintain appropriate capacity — as we have since the pandemic began in March.”

Some 29% of 4,244 molecular tests for COVID-19 in Walton County residents between Dec. 17-30 have returned positive, according to the Department of Public Health.

Georgia reached 9,900 deaths on Monday with 88 of them in Walton County.

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