District says COVID-19 cases have risen at 'alarming rate' with nearly 300 casesBy CBS Baltimore Staff

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County Public Schools is suspending all sporting events and other extracurricular activities through Jan. 7 in response to rising COVID-19 cases, Superintendent Michael Martirano said Wednesday.

Martirano said those activities are being halted immediately as part of the school district’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 cases, which have risen at an “alarming rate” since the Thanksgiving holiday break.

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There are nearly 300 positive cases, the superintendent said, and 3,720 students and 146 staff members are in quarantine. That’s compared to Nov. 18 when there were 75 cases and fewer than 1,200 students and staff in quarantine.

“The escalation in positive cases has put a strain on school health staff to accurately identify and complete close contact communications in an efficient manner,” he said. “In fact, the current number of cases in many of our schools has become challenging from a notification standpoint.”

The measure applies to all athletic practices and games, musical and theatrical rehearsals and performances, extracurricular activities and field trips. It’s effective immediately and runs through Jan. 15, but the issue will be revisited Jan. 7.

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Students may meet or practice virtually, but they will not be allowed to use any of the district’s indoor facilities for those purposes, Martirano said. The suspension does not affect before- or after-care programs.

The district is working with parent-teacher associations to shift in-person meetings online.

Martirano said administrators are working with the Howard County Health Department to provide COVID-19 screenings in schools. He’s also asking parents to check on their children daily and to not send them to school if they have symptoms.

“It is absolutely essential that we do all we can to keep schools open and ensure each school remains a healthy learning environment for students and staff,” he said.

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CBS Baltimore Staff