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Students during the first day of school at Roosevelt Elementary School in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 12. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Several counties across the U.S. have temporarily suspended school because of a surge in coronavirus cases among students and faculty early in the academic year.

Why it matters: Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC this week he believes more schools will close due to COVID-19 than last year because the Delta variant spreads with greater ease than other versions of the virus.

  • "I think this fall is going to be really challenging for schools," Besser said. "I expect that it’s going to jump around different classrooms, and schools will be forced to shut down more than they did in fact last year."

Counties and schools that have canceled classes:

  • Burke County, Georgia, announced Friday that schools would be canceled for two weeks after more than 40 new cases were recorded among students in the district.
  • Ware County, Georgia, said it would cancel classes for two weeks "due to a sharp increase in the number of active positive COVID cases reported among students and staff members" after just over a week in session.
  • Schools in Georgia's Macon, Taliaferro, Glascock and Talbot counties shut down for two weeks or transitioned to virtual learning.
  • Stone High School in Wiggins, Mississippi, said this week it would transition to virtual classes for two weeks because of new virus cases, though the school did not disclose the exten of the outbreak, according to WLOX, an ABC/CBS-affiliated television station.
  • South Hancock Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, said this week it would close for two weeks after six full days of school because eight students had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Sun Herald.

The big picture: It is so far unclear whether the Delta variant causes a more serious illness in children and teens than other versions of the virus, though more adolescents are being admitted to hospitals because of COVID.

  • The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve coronavirus vaccines for children under age 12.
  • Major pediatrician organizations have called on the FDA to act faster to authorize vaccines for young children.

Go deeper: Nearly 500 students in Palm Beach County, Florida are quarantined

Go deeper

Nov 20, 2021 - Sports

Australian Open to require players to be vaccinated against COVID

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates against Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the men's singles final during day 14 of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Feb. 21. Photo: TPN/Getty Images

The Australian Open will require tennis players to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus for the tournament in January, tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed in an interview, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The requirement concludes months of "mixed messages from Australian government officials" on whether or not to implement a vaccine mandate, the Times writes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.