CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — During Monday's White House COVID Response Team briefing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials reiterated the importance of everyone in schools wearing a mask this fall -- vaccinated or not.
In the meantime, the Georgia Department of Public Health said the CDC is estimating that 78% of the state's cases are from the Delta variant.
The warning has been top of mind for so many as several local school districts welcome students back to class . Despite rising COVID numbers, some districts aren't requiring masks.
The Cherokee County School District said it is not mandating masks, making mother-of-two Ashley Altamimi grateful.
"I'm excited as a parent because our kids need friends and they need that interaction with other friends, just being in a learning environment," Altamimi said. "I get to go have lunch with my kids! We're very thrilled about this hopefully returning to normal -- whatever that looks like."
Altamimi, who is a healthcare worker, has a child who started 2nd grade and another starting kindergarten on Monday. She said they had a great first day.
"I think the masks are good, but I think that now we're kind of in a situation where people are getting vaccinated. We're coming out of stuff, but you've got reports that there are more lockdowns coming, so it's kind of hard to know what to believe nowadays."
Last week, the Cherokee County School District said it would not be mandating quarantines to anyone who came in close contact with someone who tested positive.
"CCSD will not issue mandated precautionary quarantines to students or staff for close contact at school with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19," the district said.
"I was honestly a little surprised by that," Altamimi said. "I know when we had it, even though my son wasn't showing any symptoms, he had to quarantine for 14 days. They took it very seriously and were very strict about it."
Over in DeKalb County, Kanita Key and her two kids are quarantining after she said her daughter was exposed to another infected student. Both her 16-year-old and 7-year-old who attend Dekalb County School District schools had to spend the first day of school at home, bringing up a lot of questions for the family.
"There's just been a lot of confusion about how to proceed, what day they can go back, when they can get tested, how do we figure out what we're going to do with our classwork in the meantime," she said.
Key added that the district sent her CDC guidelines but no direction on how to catch up on schoolwork.
"I just really feel powerless and helpless and I've done tutoring and done things outside of the home to try to get my kids what they need but this is very frustrating and I'm at a loss for words," she added. "How do my kids still keep their work, he's already behind so we really can't afford to lose any more school year as it is."
11Alive has reached out to the district to get answers for her.
In a statement, the district said the following:
"The health and safety of the DeKalb County School District school community is our number one priority. District and school leaders have responded to the situation and are diligently working with families to ensure they are provided with accurate information and have the appropriate instructional materials to continue coursework virtually, if needed."
"If they're following the guidelines as far as protective equipment, then I don't feel like we should have to stay at home as long as we have, but if the CDC says we have to stay at home, then fine, but what's the plan in the meantime," Key added.
The CDC said people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have been near someone who tested positive aren't required to quarantine. However - if you haven't been vaccinated, which includes everyone under 12 years old, and feel sick, it recommends quarantining for 14 days unless you test negative.
"Much of Georgia is classified by the CDC as an area of high infection rate," said M.G. Finn, Chair of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry for Georgia Tech. "We want to use all available tools and mask-wearing is really easy and quite effective to make the numbers go in our favor."