Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) says about 1,000 students and staff are quarantined just days after the new school year began, prompting officials to announce more cautious COVID-19 protocols about who must stay home.
Dozens of confirmed COVID-19 cases were identified during the first week of classes at Maryland’s largest school district, which has about 160,000 students, officials say.
Many schools have sent out letters notifying the community of a COVID-19 case, most recently Burning Tree Elementary School, Brookhaven Elementary School, Flower Valley Elementary School, Greenwood Elementary School and Lakelands Park Middle School, MCPS said.
Montgomery County began the school year on Monday with a requirement that students and staff wear masks indoors and quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Now, students will be sent home if they are exposed to someone who has just one COVID-19 symptom, which includes fever, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, new headaches or new loss of taste or smell.
If your child was exposed to someone with one or more of those symptoms, they'll be sent home, officials say. If the sick person later tests negative for COVID-19 or gets another diagnosis, the quarantine period can end.
Interim superintendent Monifa B. McKnight announced updated COVID quarantine guidelines in a letter to parents Friday. Here's what the letter said about the new rules:
- Unvaccinated students who have been in close contact with an individual who is displaying any single symptom of COVID-19 will be sent home.
- Students who are sent home because they have been in close contact with an individual with symptoms may return if the individual with symptoms tests negative, or has an alternate diagnosis from a medical provider.
- In the absence of a negative COVID-19 test or alternate medical diagnosis of that individual, all students who were in close contact with the individual are required to quarantine for 10 days.
The quarantine protocols also apply to anyone who tests positive for COVID-19; those who show a symptom of COVID-19 and unvaccinated students who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or shows COVID-19 symptoms.
Here's a graphic laying out the school’s process if a student becomes ill or is exposed to COVID-19.
If a student is quarantined, they would be sent home for up to 10 days. Elementary students would learn via live virtual instruction from a teacher, although it may not be their own teacher.
Middle and high school students will receive class materials and schedule live check-ins with teachers.
COVID-19 testing is available to students in pre-K through sixth grade for free; parents must opt-in to participate.
COVID-19 is surging throughout the county. The number of confirmed cases per 100,000 residents in the past week was about 107 on Friday — nearly twice as high as the figure was on Aug. 5.