EASTON — Talbot County Public Schools will return to all virtual learning beginning Thursday, Nov. 19, the district announced Monday evening in response to a significant rise in reported coronavirus infections in the county.
The development comes after Talbot County saw its COVID-19 daily new case rate per 100,000 people increase over the weekend to 16.5 on Monday and its positivity rate rise to above 5%. Tuesday marked the county’s fourth consecutive day reporting a case rate above 10 and its second day above 15, at 17.7.
County Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley said she has been watching the daily new case rate closely as an indicator of whether it’s safe to keep schools open for face-to-face instruction. A case rate above 15, Wadley has said, is cause at least for a reevaluation of the district’s hybrid learning model, which has been active since Oct. 12.
TCPS Superintendent Dr. Kelly Griffith said in a notice to students and parents Monday that Wadley recommended the school system return to virtual schooling because the local health metrics indicate a high virus transmission risk among residents.
“This is certainly not what we hoped for, but we must work together to try to keep our children, our staff and our community as safe as possible,” Griffith wrote. “In conjunction with the health department we will continue to monitor the positivity rate and new cases per 100,000, and we will reevaluate the opportunity to resume in-person learning on a weekly basis.”
The school system also has paused all in-person athletics and extra-curricular activities indefinitely, according to the notice from Griffith.
TCPS has not reported a coronavirus outbreak in its schools. As of Tuesday, Nov. 17, none of the district’s schools was listed on the Maryland Department of Health’s dashboard among schools reporting virus spread between at least two individuals within the school setting.
The Talbot County health department reported Tuesday 50 residents are actively infected with the virus, and 720 have contracted the virus to date.
The Talbot County Education Association said in a statement it supports the district’s move to all distance learning. “TCEA member safety remains our focus as we deliver education services to our community,” the union wrote.
“We ask that our community continues to abide by the basic safety protocols to wash our hands often, wear a mask for our own safety and that of our neighbor, and to keep our six feet distance,” TCEA’s statement read. “When we each participate, it benefits us all.”
Wadley did not respond to The Star Democrat‘s questions Monday and Tuesday about the decision to close classrooms to students. The health officer had not provided any public comment on the development by Tuesday evening.