ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Two days after suspending in-person extracurricular activities for Howard County Public Schools in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano is changing course.

Martirano announced Friday that certain activities and events—including outdoor sports practices—may resume immediately, though masks are required for indoor activities. The rest of the activities are set to restart on Jan. 3.

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The superintendent suspended in-person extracurricular activities on Wednesday, saying COVID-19 cases had risen at an alarming rate. The school district had nearly 300 positive cases, and nearly 4,000 students and staff in quarantine.

Over the past two days, the district worked with the health department to identify the activities most affected by the spike, Martirano said. That time also allowed the district to introduce testing at schools with the highest transmission rates.

“We are now to a point where we can begin to resume some activities, with precautions, and be more tactical in decisions that will be driven by data and guidance by our health partners,” Martirano said.

Citing their high rates of spread, the superintendent said all extracurricular activities at Oakland Mills, Hammond and Hebron high schools and Laurel Woods Elementary will remain suspended until further notice.

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Below are the activities resuming immediately:

  • Athletics team practices held outside;
  • Theater, music and dance rehearsals;
  • Clubs and other non-sports activities that don’t involve travel;
  • Tutoring and academic interventions;
  • Select field trips for each school;
  • Outdoor community events;
  • After-school community use of facilities.

These are activities scheduled to resume Jan. 3:

  • Indoor athletics practices;
  • Dance performances;
  • Concerts and performances;
  • Travel for extracurricular activities.

Following a vote Thursday by the Howard County Board of Education, a plan will be required for the resumption of in-person activities. That plan, which will take shape over the next week, will entail a test-to-play requirement for athletics and theater.

Moving forward, Martirano said the suspension of any activities will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

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“I will continue to make decisions with the primary focus of keeping school buildings healthy and open through the entire school year,” he said. “We will pay close attention to the rapidly evolving data and implement necessary mitigations strategies.”

CBS Baltimore Staff