Local Schools Grapple With COVID-19 Outbreaks As Cases Climb

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As the United States surpasses one million COVID-19 deaths, coronavirus cases continue to jump to concerning levels in Maryland, and recent outbreaks have been associated with local schools

WJZ obtained an email that was sent home to parents of Worthington Elementary students in Howard County. The letter said 27 people in the school tested positive for COVID-19. The people impacted are currently in isolation.

The principal sent out the letter which also explained that “it has been determined that it is safe for all other students and staff to continue to be in the building.”

That same letter asked parents to keep their kids home if they have any symptoms.

Howard County is not alone. Roland Park Elementary-Middle school in Baltimore City had an even larger outbreak after a weekend event.

About 30 people at the school were affected and 6th-grade classes had to go virtual.

“But we were just really thankful that even though it was an out-of-school event, we were able to get the word out quickly, be able to tell folks and to have the regular testing,” says Dr. Sonja Santelises, the CEO of Baltimore City Schools.

A medical expert at Johns Hopkins explained that various school districts will handle outbreaks differently.

“I think that if we can have children in schools, we’re going to do our best to have them in schools. That being said, we should still take every mitigation necessary and available to us to prevent infection in schools,” says Priya Duggal, Ph.D., with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Parents at Worthington Elementary school expressed concern about the latest outbreak.

“We are concerned that they are not changing anything or reinstituting masking,” says Nathan Alexander, a father of a student at the school. “We still have my son masked, but we are very concerned,”

A mother who did not want to be identified said “I wasn’t going to bring my son to school today but he’s missed a lot of time already for doctor’s appointments and everything else,” she said. “It was concerning because it is a large number, usually it’s just one or two or three.”

With the rising cases, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa on Tuesday said she strongly encourages residents and visitors wear masks indoors and at public gatherings, but the city is not yet reinstituting a mandate.

“I am strongly recommending that masks be worn indoors or in public settings regardless of vaccination status,” she said.