Ten people within Carroll’s public school system have been confirmed as having COVID-19, more than 70 are considered persons under investigation and 142 others have been quarantined, the county’s top health official said during the weekly meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.
He noted, however, that there have not been any documented cases of transmission within Carroll County Public Schools.
“We will see outbreaks in our schools at some point in time,” County Health Officer Ed Singer said Thursday morning.
The commissioners have asked Singer for school data on positive coronavirus cases for the past couple of weeks, or since elementary and middle school students returned to Carroll public schools Oct. 19 for hybrid learning.
Singer and school system officials initially were unsure what data they would be able to reveal about COVID-19 cases because of privacy concerns, but have now agreed to report the numbers and to create a data dashboard, which is expected to be available on the CCPS website next week, Singer said.
During the week of Oct. 25, Singer said three COVID-19 cases were reported in public schools and another 57 individuals were considered persons under investigation, or PUIs. As a result of the confirmed cases and PUs, 126 others had to quarantine. Singer said the special education community and close contact often required for it contributed to the high number.
So far this week, seven within CCPS have tested positive for the virus, he said, noting another 25 PUIs and 16 people quarantined. The quarantines are to last either 14 days or until the PUI with whom the quarantined invididual had close contact receives a negative COVID-19 test result.
Last week, Singer questioned if the guidelines for quarantining within the school system was too onerous since these are more stringent than the protocols used in the general public. But that could be changing. On Thursday, he said the state’s health and education departments will be releasing new guidance by Friday that would be consistent with the public’s.
The health officer also said the school system will have its data dashboard next week that will report the number of COVID cases and PUIs every week and the school buildings where they were reported. The county’s health department will also share that data.
“I think this is what you as commissioners were asking to see,” he said.
“It’s important for us to have that transparency for our citizens and parents,” Commissioner President Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said. “I applaud yourself and I applaud [Superintendent] Dr. [Steve] Lockard and his staff for being transparent here.”
Maryland’s Department of Health is also expected to report when a school has an outbreak, Singer said, though none have happened within the public schools so far.
However, a private school in Carroll has had an outbreak, he added.
Singer said in an interview that he did not want to share the name of the school until the state’s health department starts reporting on outbreaks. He did share that a teacher transmitted the virus to two students a few weeks ago. He said whenever a transmission occurs in a school system, it is considered an outbreak.
Singer told the commissioners that despite the 10 positive cases there has not been any documented transmission in the school system.
“How can both those things be true?” Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, asked.
Singer explained that none of the 10 confirmed cases caught it at school and that the people who were quarantined from those 10 have not developed symptoms nor test positive for the virus. Singer said he thought they would have seen the first case of transmission this week, but “knock on wood” they have not.
Singer noted that high school students will return for hybrid learning next week. He also said he is nervous about the number of positive cases the county has been seeing of late. Last week, the health department reported 99 community cases, the second-highest week Carroll has seen.
He said he and the superintendent noted that if an outbreak occurred within the system, or if countywide transmission became too high, they would have to adjust.
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“I don’t think we’ve really been back in schools long enough … to know whether we’re going to start seeing transmission from person to person in school,” he said.