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Five things to know about Maryland’s new school coronavirus dashboard

Maryland began reporting coronavirus cases in individual schools on Nov. 5 through the state health department website as a way to provide transparency about spreadin schools, particularly those that have students attending in-person classes.

On Nov. 18, the state dashboard was updated to reflect the most recent cases. In the Baltimore area, the largest number of cases were found at St. Mark School in Baltimore County with eight cases and Joppatowne Elementary School in Harford County with six cases. In Baltimore County, McDonogh School reported four cases as did Bais Yaakov Eva Winer High School. Glenelg Country School in Howard County had seven cases. Monsignor Slade Catholic School in Anne Arundel County reported four cases. A handful of Baltimore-area schools reported two or three cases.

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Grace Academy in Washington county had the highest number of cases in the state, with 16.

More than half of schools reporting cases in the state are parochial and private schools, many of which reopened for in-person classes before public schools. All schools, including private, parochial and public schools, are required to report cases.

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Here’s how to understand the numbers:

When a school gets on the list

The state dashboard, which updates Wednesday mornings, will report current cases at individual schools in the state, but not cumulative totals over time. A school will appear on the list while the outbreak is ongoing at that school, which may be longer than 14 days. Case numbers for the school may change from week to week as new cases are reported. After the school has reported no new cases for 14 days, the school will be taken off the list.

Archival data is available through the COVID-19 open data catalog.

What is and isn’t reported

Schools are not required to report one or two positive case of the virus if there is no indication that the individuals who contracted it weren’t in contact with one another. Maryland health officials said that unlike nursing homes, schools will have staff, students and teachers who are living in the community.

What health officials are looking for in schools is not whether an individual with the illness comes to school, but whether it is spread within that school community. If safety precautions are in place, experts say, the illness should not be spreading within the school.

A class or cohort outbreak

Schools must report when two people — staff, students or teachers — who have come in contact with one another have contracted COVID-19 within a two week period. The cases must be confirmed by tests and there must be reason to believe that the illness spread from one of those people to another. The individuals can’t be part of the same household.

A school-wide outbreak

A second designation indicating a more significant number of school-based coronavirus cases. There are two ways that a school-wide outbreak can occur. The first is if there are three or more classrooms, or pods of students and their teachers in the same school that have cases in a 14-day period.

The second is if 5% or more of the total population in the school — students, staff and teachers — have confirmed cases of COVID-19. In addition, the spread must be a minimum of 10 people who aren’t related. So if a school community with only 20 people had one person contract coronavirus, the case would not meet the 10 person minimum.

The state is not making any recommendations about how schools should respond to school-wide outbreaks or class or cohort outbreaks.


Other dashboards

Some local school systems in the region have pledged to begin their own reporting of cases. Baltimore City and Baltimore County have both launched dashboards of cases in the past week.

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