Health officials in Montgomery County, Md., Are investigating a COVID-19 outbreak at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, Md., Involving more than a dozen students who have temporarily suspended the school season. the boys’ basketball team.
As of Friday, there have been 14 positive cases of COVID-19 among students and one case involving a high school staff member, according to a letter sent to parents on Monday. The students and staff member were all last at school on Friday or Saturday, according to the letter.
The letter to parents says the school is suspending practices and games for its boys varsity basketball and JV program. Additionally, the school is closing its early childhood development programs for preschoolers for the next 10 days as a precautionary measure.
The outbreak was discussed at a Montgomery County Council meeting on Tuesday, as council members heard COVID-19 updates from the county’s school system and health department.
Officials did not identify the school during the discussion, but said the outbreak involved a sports team. A school spokesperson reached by email provided a copy of the letter to parents.
“Our top priority is to make sure that our schools are safe for all students and staff and when we have a situation like this where a number of cases arise in a very short period of time it is essential for us to partner up (the health department) to investigate what’s going on, ”James D’Andrea, chief of staff for Montgomery County Public Schools, said at the board meeting.
Many students are believed to have been vaccinated since school policy required high school athletes who participate in winter sports to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 15, unless they have a medical exemption.
“This is another piece of the puzzle that we are investigating because we required that all winter sports athletes be vaccinated, which was not the case for our fall sports athletes,” D said. ‘Andrea.
According to MCPS Athletics, although masks are mandatory in school buildings, students who are fully immunized are not required to wear face covers when playing basketball.
The school’s boys’ first basketball game, which was scheduled for Tuesday night and would have marked the first time in 21 months since winter sports were played, has been postponed.
Dr Raymond Crowel, head of the health department, said the epidemic team is working “to understand the depth of what happened and its impact on students.”
Given the large number of cases, he said the county is also seeking state assistance.
“We also took the extra step of asking if the state would consider doing an analysis of students who tested positive to see whether or not we were looking at anything other than (the delta variant) … given that this was a group so tight and that a certain number of students were already vaccinated, which constitutes progress. So we just want to be safe and take that extra step to see if there is a variant issue.
Maryland reported its first three omicron variant cases on Friday, all in the Baltimore area. No other cases have been reported in Maryland.
The school system plans to hold an immunization clinic at Paint Branch High School. The booster doses and potentially the second doses of the vaccine will be available on Saturday, December 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the school system will share the registration links to make an appointment. Given the expected demand, the school does not anticipate offering walk-in appointments.
Overall, from the start of the school year until Thanksgiving week, the school system has reported a total of 827 cases of COVID-19 among students and 209 cases among staff, according to data presented in board Tuesday.
There are over 160,000 students and over 24,000 employees in the school system.
Overall, over 95% of staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As part of a vaccination mandate, employees without religious or medical exemptions are subject to disciplinary action.
Just under 700 employees in total are not vaccinated without exemption or have not communicated their status, according to data presented Tuesday.
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