MCPS Gets through First Quarter without a Covid-19 Outbreak

by Jay Joseph ‘22

During the first marking period, MCPS has not had a Covid-19 outbreak that has caused a closure of any K-12 schools. There have been about 789 Covid-19 cases and 7,941 quarantines throughout between MCPS buildings in total since the beginning of August. At most, there have been 23 cases at one time in a school.

According to the New York Times database, 92 percent of people ages 12 and up and fully vaccinated in Montgomery County, compared to 68 percent nationally. Seventy-eight percent of all residents in Montgomery County are vaccinated. With such a high vaccination rate, Montgomery County is among the top 20 counties with the highest vaccination rate in the United States.

In addition, Montgomery County has exhibited one of the lowest community transmission rates in the country. MCPS also required all staff to provide proof of vaccination by October 29. However, MCPS continues to expand upon its Covid-19 prevention measures with the county’s transmission rate at a 14-day average new case rate of 6.8 new cases per 100,000 people and about 2,145 students and staff quarantined in October.

Outbreaks have occurred in schools across the United States, causing many school closures. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observed that these closures occurred when schools did not implement or enforce Covid-19 prevention strategies effectively, such as mask-wearing requirements, adequate ventilation, and limited class sizes. Likely because of the high vaccination rate and extensive preventative measures (such as in-class air purifiers, the indoor mask mandate, and school-provided masks), MCPS has not had an outbreak.

However, students in grades K-6 are still highly vulnerable to contracting the contagious Delta variant without vaccines. The recent trials of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine proved that a lower dosage of the vaccine was safe and effective on kids ages 5-11, and the FDA and CDC have approved use for the age group. It will take at least a few weeks for vaccinations to begin en masse and even longer to fully vaccinate students.

As a result, MCPS has required that unvaccinated individuals who come into close contact with people exhibiting at least one symptom of Covid-19 to undergo rapid and PCR testing.

Close contact is defined as within three feet of the symptomatic individual for 15 minutes indoors and within six feet outdoors while eating or drinking. If a student’s parents and guardians have not consented to the test, they must quarantine for at least ten days or until the symptomatic individual tests negative for Covid-19 or receives an alternative diagnosis.

MCPS’s adaptive response to Covid-19, along with its extensive prevention methods, lower community transmission rates, and vaccinated high school population, should prevent outbreaks that could result in school closures in the coming months.