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Baltimore City Public Schools pause athletics through Jan. 3 in effort to ‘reduce exposure to COVID-19’

Baltimore City Public Schools is the latest school system to halt high school athletics, announcing Wednesday that it has suspended all games and practices through Jan. 3 in an effort to “reduce exposure to COVID-19.”

In a statement, Baltimore City Public Schools said in-person classes will resume after the winter break and COVID-19 cases will continue to be closely monitored.

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Last week, the Howard County Public School System canceled all in-person extracurricular activities and sports through Jan. 15, with a reevaluation planned for Jan. 7. But two days later, county school leaders said outside athletic practices and games, theater and music rehearsals, tutoring sessions and field trips will all immediately resume with masking required. On Jan. 3, schools can resume indoor athletics practices, dance and music performances, and travel for extracurricular activities.

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Montgomery County Public Schools, the state’s largest school system, last week changed protocol to require a team that has five or more active cases to suspend activities for 14 days. But a few days later, the system decided to postpone all athletic contests starting Wednesday through Jan. 2.

Prince George’s County Public Schools, meanwhile, became the state’s first school system to switch back to fully virtual learning until Jan. 14 amid a “stark rise” in COVID-19 cases.

Anne Arundel, Harford and Carroll counties continue to play, though several teams have shut down in recent weeks as cases spike across the state.

The Baltimore area’s two private school leagues — the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland — have left its member schools responsible for deciding to suspend games or practices. Several contests have recently been postponed due to COVID-19.

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On Monday, Archbishop Spalding High School suspended athletics “until further notice.”

Maryland health officials reported 4,072 new coronavirus cases Wednesday as the seven-day average positivity rate surpassed 12%. It comes one day after Maryland set a record with over 6,000 cases added to the state’s total Tuesday after a two-week data outage caused by a “network security incident” at the Maryland Department of Health.

Wednesday’s total eclipses the previous record of 3,792 new cases reported Dec. 4, 2020, before vaccinations were widely available in Maryland. It’s unclear if the total still reflects any cases reported during the outage.

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