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COVID cases and quarantines at Carroll County schools drop for third week

Carroll County Public School COVID-19 cases and the number of students and staff quarantining have declined for the third consecutive week.

The number of school COVID cases went from 173 last week to 134 this week, according to the system’s dashboard that updates every Wednesday. This week’s number includes three staff members.

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And the number of people who are quarantined as a close contact to someone testing positive for the virus went from 478 last week to 340 this week. That number was 1,405 nearly a month ago.

When the numbers first started to decline, CCPS director of student services Karl Streaker said school officials could not specifically pinpoint the reason for the drop. But he did credit the mitigation strategies in place. The system also changed its policy sparing students with no COVID-19 symptoms from quarantining if identified as a close contact to someone who tested positive for the virus.

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He again said on Wednesday the policy was a significant factor in the numbers. But another determinant is the case trend in the county. The rates often align with the schools’ numbers, and in Carroll County COVID-19 case rates are also dropping.

Although the numbers have dropped significantly in the last few weeks, Streaker said they will eventually level off. The district doesn’t anticipate seeing it drop by hundreds each week.

However, he’s certain the numbers will change significantly again when younger students can receive the vaccine. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will meet next week to discuss the safety and effectiveness of administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to young children.

With federal approval potentially coming in November, state and local health officials in Maryland are preparing to launch school-based vaccination clinics and specialty sites.

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As mitigation efforts continue, county health officer Ed Singer said the state has ordered home test kits for families to use if a student was considered a close contact.

Streaker said school staff are still working on the details for implementing the test kits, “but the overall intent is to provide them to families so they can test their child at home with the expectation that they will keep their child home and notify the school in the event they test positive.”

From this week’s CCPS COVID-19 dashboard update, most of the schools on the elementary level have three positive cases or less. However, Linton Springs has the most with seven and Freedom has the second highest with six.

Similarly, all the middle schools have four cases or less except for Sykesville, which reported 10.

For high schools, Century has the most cases with 13. Also worth noting is Francis Scott Key which went from 25 cases last week to five cases this week.

The state dashboard that tracks in-school outbreaks, when one person transmits the virus to another person, showed three Carroll public schools had outbreaks: Mount Airy Middle, Northwest Middle and Shiloh Middle. All outbreaks only affected two people at each school, except Northwest Middle, which states 29 people were impacted.

In mid-September, students at Northwest Middle School had to learn virtually for two days after the school temporarily closed due to number of COVID-19 cases and concerns about close contacts.

The state’s dashboard updates every Wednesday as well but does not always reflect the same numbers as Carroll’s.

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