Pointers Run Elementary School, Mount Hebron High School and Worthington Elementary School are reporting COVID-19 cases in the double digits for the first time in months and have the highest positive case numbers in the school system as of this week, according to state health department data.
A total of 24 schools in the Howard County Public School System are on a state list of public and nonpublic K-12 schools in Maryland that have COVID-19 outbreaks.
As of May 11, there were 45 cases at Pointers Run in Clarksville, 35 cases at Worthington and 34 cases at Mount Hebron, both in Ellicott City, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Those numbers include cases reported among students and staff.
Both Worthington and Pointers Run enroll students in pre-K through fifth grade; Worthington had 446 students and Pointers Run had 796 students enrolled as of the end of September. Enrollment information was not immediately available for Mount Hebron High.
“I know that families are concerned with the growing number of positive cases,” Pointers Run Principal Julie Schruefer wrote in a letter to families this week. “Please know that we continue to take every precautionary measure in school, and I want to remind families and students to remain vigilant, stay home if you don’t feel well, and get tested.”
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Schools have sent letters to families detailing daily numbers of cases reported. The numbers on the state health department website are updated weekly and only include cases associated with outbreaks and not necessarily the total for that building, according to HCPSS director of communication and engagement Brian Bassett. The school system’s COVID-19 dashboard displays school totals.
Those testing positive have been instructed to isolate for at least five days from the onset of symptoms or upon receiving a positive test without symptoms, remain fever-free for 24 hours and show a consistent improvement of symptoms, according to the school system.
According to letters sent from principals to families at affected schools, the school system is “in consultation with the Howard County Health Department,” and other than notifications and isolation instructions, “there are no additional steps at this time, and it has been determined that it is safe for all staff and students to continue to be in the building.”
Howard County health officer Dr. Maura Rossman said the health department would not recommend school closures.
“Given the relatively low hospitalization rate in our community and lower severity of disease, it will take a huge surge in cases or inability of the schools to safely operate due to high absenteeism for HCHD to recommend closure,” Rossman said in an email. “However, given the increasing cases and increase in outbreaks, we do recommend adherence to mitigation strategies to prevent transmission and severe disease.”
The health department suggests wearing a mask while indoors during times of increased COVID-19 cases in the community or in an outbreak setting; having a plan for testing by keeping some rapid antigen kits at home and staying aware of available testing sites; staying home if symptomatic and getting tested with a PCR or rapid antigen test, testing if exposed to someone with COVID-19; quarantining after exposure to someone with COVID-19 and isolating if positive or symptomatic.
Additionally, it suggests following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s isolation and quarantine recommendations and to wear a mask around others for 10 days, contacting your medical provider regarding potential treatment and staying up to date with vaccines and boosters to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death.