Montgomery County has ordered private schools to remain closed for in-person instruction through Oct. 1.
Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles, who issued the order late Friday, said it will be reevaluated before Oct. 1 to determine whether it should be extended, terminated or changed in any way. Gayles noted there have been increases in transmission rates for COVID-19 in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia, particularly in younger age groups.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have based our decisions on science and data,” Gayles said in a news release announcing the decision. “At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers."
Montgomery County, which has more than 1 million residents, has had 17,665 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second highest in a Maryland jurisdiction — and 750 people have died from the virus in the county.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Saturday criticized the order. Hogan wrote on Twitter that he “strongly” disagreed with the decision taken in Montgomery County, a suburb of the nation's capital.
“As long as these schools develop safe plans that follow (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community,” Hogan, a Republican, wrote. “This is a decision for schools and parents, not politicians.”
The Archdiocese of Washington released a statement Saturday that it was reviewing the directive, as well as Hogan’s statements, and would evaluate how "to proceed for students and the entire community."
“The Archdiocese of Washington continues to have the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and parents uppermost in mind and heart as we make our decisions regarding the reopening of our Catholic schools,” Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said.
Maryland reported Saturday that there have been 89,365 confirmed cases of the virus in the state. Of them, 8,528 cases have been confirmed in people 19 years of age or younger. Maryland has reported a total of 3,374 deaths from the virus statewide.
Montgomery County Public Schools recently announced they would open virtually for the fall semester, along with other public school systems in the region.