Twenty seven people at Worthington Elementary School have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, according to an email from the school’s principal sent out to parents.
The school, located in Ellicott City, had 446 students enrolled in preschool through fifth grade as of September.
The email, sent Monday, said that the Howard County Health Department confirmed the outbreak and that the affected individuals were “instructed to isolate for at least 5 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.”
The Maryland Department of Health defines a school outbreak as 5% or more of any combination of unrelated students, teachers and staff that have confirmed positive COVID-19 tests within a 14-day period.
Neither the school system nor health department would confirm whether the cases were among students or staff at the school, or at what grade level, citing confidentiality protocols.
In the email to families, Worthington Elementary School Principal Kelli Jenkins wrote that there are no additional steps to take, and it has been determined that it is safe for all other staff and students to continue to be in the building.
A state-defined outbreak does not automatically necessitate closure of a classroom or school, according to school system staff. The health department monitors all positive cases and notifies the school system if a classroom or school closure is warranted.
“Schools are not automatically closed when there is a state-defined outbreak,” said Brian Bassett, a schools spokesperson. “A decision to close a school because of any health concern, including COVID, would be made in consultation with the health department. We continue to follow our extensive mitigation efforts and encourage all students and staff to conduct daily health checks before coming to school and work. We will also continue to monitor the health environment in our schools and work closely with the health department as case rates rise and fall.”
As of May 4, there were 73 positive COVID-19 cases in 11 schools across the Howard County school system, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
Jenkins encouraged parents to perform a symptom check on their children every day before leaving home to keep staff and students healthy and safe. According to the health department, students should not be sent to school if they have a cough, diarrhea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, new loss of taste or smell, new onset of severe headache or a sore throat.