Harford County Public Schools are seeing “some slight glimmers of hope” in the school system’s COVID-19 numbers, Mary Nasuta, the school system’s supervisor of health services, told the school board Monday night.
Currently, the district dashboard is reporting 539 students in isolation and 451 in quarantine, as well as 119 staff in quarantine and 41 in isolation. All those numbers are down from the last board meeting Jan. 10, except for staff in isolation, which is up by only one.
Nasuta cautioned that despite the downward trends, the schools are still “well into” high levels of transmission. Of the 4,244 students and 774 staff who’ve tested positive this school year, Nasuta almost half of those cases were reported after Jan. 1.
“This is the power of omicron,” Nasuta said. “Schools continue to reflect that level of transmission within our own community.”
Nasuta also noted that there were seven school outbreaks on the Maryland Department of Health website, although the school district’s website lists 11 as of Jan. 19. Outbreaks are determined when five or more classrooms or cohorts with cases from separate households occur within 14 days, or 5% or more unrelated students/teachers/staff have confirmed COVID-19 within a 14-day period [minimum of 10 unrelated students/teachers/staff], according to the state health department’s website.
A number of COVID-19 safety measures have been put into place for HCPS staff, said Katie Ridgway, the school system’s risk manager.
First, HCPS purchased KN95 masks for all employees. Each employee can obtain a pack of 20 masks. Many schools received their shipments Friday; others will receive theirs this week.
Second, the Harford County Health Department purchased at-home COVID-19 test kits for all staff. The kits are expected to be shipped by the end of the month.
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And third, a clinic is now open for staff members who want to take a COVID-19 test any evening during the school week.
“These were each important safety tools to provide our staff,” Ridgway said. “We will continue to look for ways to support staff during the ongoing pandemic.”
HCPS also held a staff booster clinic Jan. 14; 424 staff members participated, according to Nasuta. HCPS’ 10 Title I elementary schools will offer COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday.
HCPS is also working on a new operational status that will take effect Feb. 1, Ridgway said. It will be released via the HCPS website and email, according to an HCPS spokesperson.
Superintendent Sean Bulson said he hoped to bring back a limited number of spectators to sporting events Feb. 1. Athletes will be notified of more details by their coaches or athletic directors, according to an HCPS spokesperson.
Board members also offered their condolences to the family of former HCPS Superintendent Robert Tomback, who passed away Dec. 23, 2021. He served one term as superintendent, from 2009 to 2013.