EASTON — Talbot County Public Schools reported no new coronavirus infections among its students, teachers or staff as of Thursday. The district has confirmed two COVID-19 cases in its schools since they reopened to students nearly four weeks ago.
County Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley said there are school age children in the county who have contracted the virus within that time span, but none of the infected children is among those receiving in-classroom schooling.
Between Sept. 1 and Oct. 27, Talbot County reported 53 coronavirus infections in residents between 0 and 20 years old, according to local health data. More than half of those cases occurred among high school age residents between 16 and 20 years of age.
TCPS Spokesperson Debbie Gardner said if a student is attending school virtually and they test positive for COVID-19, the school district is not made aware of that individual’s diagnosis because it does not directly impact school operations nor the safety of classroom attendees.
When an individual who has been in a school building is confirmed to have contracted the virus, the district said it will remove that individual from the school setting, initiate cleaning procedures and notify students, their families and school staff of the case, as well as possible exposures.
Wadley said the county health department’s contact tracers have not identified any instances of virus transmission within Talbot schools at this point. Significant spread of the virus linked to the school setting, Wadley has indicated, would prompt her department to consider closing schools.
Wadley and TCPS Superintendent Dr. Kelly Griffith have said they will not hesitate to issue school closures if the need arises. The health officer said she is monitoring the county’s daily new case rate per 100,000 people, which is averaged over seven days, to guide her decisions regarding schools.
On Thursday, Oct. 29, the county’s case rate was 7.68. The Maryland Department of Health recommends school districts consider ceasing or limiting in-person instruction if their area’s case rate goes above 15. Wadley has said she likes to see the county’s case rate stay below 10.
In order to prevent the virus’s spread within schools, Wadley recommended that parents “encourage their children to always wear their masks properly covering their noses and to avoid being within six feet of others for any period of time.”
Wadley also said parents, students, teachers and staff should “avoid high risk settings outside of schools, including bars, large family and social gatherings, and inside events.”
“No one likes to be told what to do on their own time, but back-to-school can only be safe when everyone takes responsibility for their health and those they might infect,” Wadley said, adding that helping to get children back into classrooms is a “community endeavor in which we all have to do our part to keep the transmission of the virus low throughout Talbot County.”