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Our View: Thumbs up to good signs regarding COVID-19, a fine fall prep sports season, students making the grade | COMMENTARY

THUMBS UP: On Monday, the Carroll County Health Department released data that showed the number of COVID-19 cases in Carroll County had declined for the third week in a row with case numbers at their lowest level in two months. That was a good sign. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on outdoor mask wearing, noting that as more people are getting vaccinated it’s OK in most cases to go without masks, on Wednesday Gov. Hogan made that Maryland’s policy and on Thursday the county commissioners officially followed suit. More good signs. Two important caveats, however. First, the drop in numbers doesn’t mean the pandemic is over or that another spike isn’t on the horizon. After the correctly predicted post-holiday spike produced more than 500 cases in a single week in early January here in Carroll, we saw seven weeks in a row of declining numbers. But then, for no reason other than people likely relaxing, case numbers started going up again, more than doubling. So we’re glad to see the decline, but don’t want to make too much of it. Second, the mask guidance already has deniers saying trying use the policy change as evidence masks don’t work. On the contrary, the change is because of vaccination rates driving down transmission. It was always significantly safer outside, anyway. We remind everyone that it remains the law to wear masks indoors in public places. Stay vigilant. It’s not time to relax. It’s time to finish off the virus.

THUMBS UP: Carroll County’s fall high school sports got through a season that started in early March and ran through mid-April. Not the traditional setting for football, soccer, volleyball, and the like, but county coaches and athletes did their best amid COVID-19 guidelines. Carroll was the only county in the state to have a winter season when it did, back in January and February, and that momentum carried into a modified fall season. Football had a six-game schedule, made up of intra-county matchups, while most of the other sports did the same but played eight games. Almost every scheduled game took place ― one notable football game, the annual Century-Liberty clash for the Freedom Bell, was canceled ― and Carroll crowned county champs just as it did for the winter. Liberty won county titles in boys cross country, girls cross country, boys soccer, and field hockey. Century claimed the girls soccer crown, while Westminster won for football, golf, and volleyball. The boys soccer, girls soccer, golf, field hockey, volleyball, and football county champs each went undefeated. Who knows what postseason success might’ve been in store for those teams, or another Carroll squad set to embark on a playoff run, had this been a normal season? We’ll be showcasing the top athletes from each fall sport with our all-county teams in the coming week, and then it’s onto a spring season that is set to begin May 7 and run through the middle of June.

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THUMBS UP: The number of Carroll County Public Schools students who received at least one failing grade during the third quarter dropped by hundreds in comparison with the previous quarter. And three-fourths of students who received no failing grades were learning in person. Whereas students had very little ability to learn in person during the first two marking periods, students who wanted to be in class learning were able to do so twice a week when the third quarter began and then four days per week by mid-March. It seems likely that helped students who were struggling with the virtual school necessitated by the pandemic for much of the year and that grades could improve more markedly during the four-day-a-week fourth quarter. Still, while the trend of failing grades has improved through the school year, more than 10% of the student population received at least one F, some five times more than during the same marking period last year. This has been a school year like no other and recovery learning will be critical this summer and next year to help a large number of students get back on track.

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