The leader of Prince George’s County Public Schools on Tuesday explained the county's decision to transition to virtual learning amid a surge in coronavirus cases that has forced thousands of students and staff to quarantine.
Schools CEO Dr. Monica Goldson said in a news conference Tuesday that 994 students and 261 teachers tested positive for the virus in the last week alone. That resulted in 16,778 students and 492 staff members in quarantine.
"The large number of students and staff quarantined, along with COVID-19 cases compounded by ongoing staff shortages began to significantly impact learning," Goldson said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan criticized the county's decision to immediately close schools on Friday. His comments on Sunday preceded his own COVID-19 diagnosis this week.
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Goldson said the switch to virtual education through the first two weeks in January does not mean learning stops.
"It is not a halt to meaningful teaching," she said
Students are set to return to the classroom on Jan. 18.
Goldson urged parents to go online and register their children for weekly random testing in school as another way to help slow the spread of the virus.
Recent county-level infection numbers are not available because of a cyber attack affecting the Maryland Department of Health.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks highlighted statewide numbers showing Maryland has had an increase of 28,341 positive cases since Dec. 3 and the positivity rate has almost doubled to nearly 10.3% as of Monday
"This, I don’t have to tell you, is extremely concerning," she said.
Alsobrooks also urged county residents to get vaccinated, boosted and tested, and to be cautious around others over the holidays.
The county has one of the strongest vaccination rates in the state, health officials said.
"We know the storm is coming," Prince George's County Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter said. "This particular storm, we're prepared for."