COBB County, Ga. (CBS46) -- The Cobb County Board of Health wants all public, private and charter schools in the county with K-12 students to mandate masks.

On Tuesday, the board voted in favor of a resolution which adopts Centers for Disease and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, including mandatory mask-wearing, to slow the spread of COVID-19. Board member and Cobb County Schools superintendent Chris Ragsdale abstained.

“There is a cost for having elementary, specifically elementary school-aged children, masks mandated during the entire day,” Ragsdale said.

The emergency meeting comes as Cobb County is experiencing a 13 percent positivity rate in COVID-19 cases, well above the desire 5 percent threshold. Health officials said the fourth surge is being driven by the “highly transmissible” delta variant and that school-aged children are among the most impacted groups.

“This is a very important stance we have to take,” said board member Dr. Paula Greaves. “We need to protect our vulnerable.”

Health officials laid out current data that details how the virus is affecting young people in Georgia. As of September 2, there were 136 outbreaks in the state, most of which are happening in schools, according to data provided by Dr. Janet Memark, director of the Cobb and Douglas Public Health. Last month alone, four children died due to complications from the virus.

Ninety percent of hospitalizations in the county involve unvaccinated people, according to a representative from Wellstar Health System.

“This is one of the most trying issues of our time where our inaction could be resulting in grave harm to our children,” said Lisa Cupid, board member and chairwoman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

The virus in children is also having a ripple effect on emergency services. Pete Quinones, CEO of Metro Ambulance Service, which employees 700 people, said that 50 percent of callouts are due to parents having sick kids.

“That hampers our ability to deliver emergency care in all markets that we serve in, not just in Cobb County but across the metro,” Quinones said.

Still, Ragsdale was steadfast, telling the Board he believes the COVID mitigation protocols already in place in Cobb County Schools are enough.

“What is happening is working in our schools,” he said. “It’s not that we’re anti-mask or anti-vaccination. We strongly encourage both of those.”

Parents in the district who CBS46 spoke with after the meeting were frustrated by Ragsdale position.

“If you don’t take every precaution, there is no going back to apologize for the loss of a life,” said Darrell Horton, who has a 3rd and 6th grader in the district. “It’s not good enough. We’re talking about people’s kids.”

While the resolution passed, school leaders have the final say on mandating masks in their respective districts. The resolution does not apply in Douglas County.

Copyright 2021 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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