ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) — Only 11 of the state’s 797 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are children, and cases in schools represent “a small fraction” of cases statewide, Gov. Larry Hogan said on Thursday.

But the governor also criticized some Maryland school districts for not taking advantage of a state testing program and federal stimulus money to enhance safety in the classroom.

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On Tuesday, Maryland’s Board of Education reported there have been 4,042 confirmed cases among students in schools statewide and 681 cases among staff members.

Since schools reopened, at least 16,559 students have had to quarantine, along with 784 staff members since schools reopened.

“The most important thing that school systems can do right now to limit outbreaks and to prevent needless quarantines is to utilize the robust testing capacity that they’ve been given,” Hogan said during a press conference.

In 2020, the state provided one million COVID-19 tests to public and non-public schools. This year, the state has earmarked $182 million for an optional program to regularly test the student population, but only 13 of the state’s 24 school systems have enrolled, Hogan said.

Districts in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince
George’s and Worcester counties and Baltimore City, as well as 80 non-public schools, have all enrolled. The deadline to join has been extended until Oct. 10, Hogan said.

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The Maryland Department of Health also has 415,800 rapid tests available to schools, Hogan said.

He later clarified that school districts are able to work in conjunction with the local health departments to test students if there’s sufficient capacity.

“But we had some of our local leaders saying they didn’t have the ability to do testing, and we’ve had unlimited amounts of testing and money available, and we keep repeatedly telling them that,” Hogan said. “If people are not comfortable with where they are on testing, then they should get more involved and help.”

Over the last 18 months, another $2.7 billion in federal stimulus money was provided to Maryland school systems to enhance classroom safety, but nearly $2 billion of that has not been spent, the governor said.

“There is no excuse for any school system to fail to take any steps toward keeping their students and teachers safe,” Hogan said.

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As of Sept. 29, the Maryland Department of Education has reported outbreaks of 61 positive cases at Margaret Brent Middle School in St. Mary’s County, 36 cases at Talmudical Academy in Baltimore County, 35 cases at Friends School in Baltimore City, and 35 cases at Leonardtown High School in St. Mary’s County, among others.

CBS Baltimore Staff