CAMBRIDGE — A rural Maryland county has closed its schools amid a spike in coronavirus cases, becoming the first county in the state to scale back learning in classrooms after officials pushed schools to reopen.
As of Friday, Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had the highest number of confirmed new cases per 100,000 population during the last seven days, data collected by The Washington Post shows.
“We were doing well and moving slowly,” Dorchester County School Superintendent W. David Bromwell said.
But the sudden surge put the brakes on the county’s plan this week when it announced school building closures Wednesday.
Schools and health officials noted that the confirmed virus cases haven’t spread across schools, saying that the closures were a safety measure to prevent an outbreak in schools.
“The scary part is how quickly it flipped, and it seemed to be growing exponentially,” Bromwell said. “It just appears that it’s hitting rural America.”
And he’s right. Rural communities across the Midwest sat among the top in the nation for new cases per capita over earlier this month, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
In Dorchester County, the test-positivity rate jumped from 2.9% to 6.1% in a eight-day period, according to Roger Harrell, the county’s health officer.
The spike in cases hasn’t been connected to a specific event or outbreak in any part of the county and has affected people across all ages, Harrell explained.
“We’ve not really figured out why,” he said. “I wish we had the magic answer, but we don’t have it yet.”