Frederick County Public Schools report COVID-19 outbreak following reopening


Note: FCPS indicated Thursday the outbreak is linked to athletics, not in-person instruction.

FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — Frederick County Public Schools went back to school Tuesday and have reported a classroom/cohort outbreak of COVID-19 at Catoctin Highschool.

The announcement follows the statewide policy of notifying the county and state. A classroom or cohort outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and staff.

FCPS says they are confident in their hybrid plan to keep schools safe, but also have planned responses for when any outbreaks may occur.

“Once we have a confirmed COVID-19 case in any of our buildings, the contact tracing happens just like it would anywhere else,” FCPS Spokesperson Brandon Oland said. “And we’re following all the protocols that the Frederick County Health Department, the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education have in place.”

Oland says the school system wants to remain transparent and directly notifies the entire school after an outbreak is confirmed.

“We care about our communities,” he said. “We want them to know what happened and to be aware of situations, even if it didn’t directly involve their families.”

Joann Howell is the mother of two FCPS children who were excited to be back in the classroom. She said no system is perfect, but the community is also responsible for reducing the spread within schools.

“They won’t know that people test positive unless people actually tell them,” Howell said. “… We’re all responsible, we all have to be responsible. This is not all on them.”

FCPS says the handling of classrooms and cohorts that experience an outbreak will be on a case-by-case basis.

Below is the email announcement sent Wednesday morning by Brandon Oland, the Communications Manager for FCPS:

We are writing to share that a cohort at Catoctin High School (CHS) has met the criteria determined by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) for a Classroom/Cohort outbreak of COVID-19 defined below:

Classroom/cohort outbreak definition:

At least two confirmed COVID-19 cases among students/teachers/staff within a 14-day period and who are epidemiologically linked, but not household contacts.

When a report of a confirmed case of COVID-19 is received, Catoctin High School administrators conduct a case investigation to identify any close contacts of the individual and follow the Maryland State Department of Education and Maryland Department of Health (MDH) Decision Aid: Exclusion and Return for Laboratory Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Persons with COVID-19-like Illness in Schools, Child Care Programs, and Youth Camps to isolate and quarantine the appropriate individuals.

We collaborate with our FCPS Health Services Specialist and the Frederick County Health Department (FCHD) for reporting and contact tracing of each case. During contact tracing, it was determined that two individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 participated in school-based activities in close enough proximity to be considered a cohort. This information was reported to MDH, who has determined these cases to meet the criteria of an outbreak of COVID-19.

During our case investigations, any close contacts of the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were contacted directly and advised to quarantine at home, monitor their health, and contact their healthcare provider for any health concerns.

While we believe the risk of exposure to others to be low, we are sharing this information out of an abundance of caution and to be transparent with our valued Catoctin High School community. The FCPS Health Specialist in collaboration with the FCHD COVID-19 School Liaison will be reporting COVID-19 case information to MDH every day until the outbreak is determined to be cleared.

CHS will continue to provide in-person hybrid instruction and extracurricular activities at this time. CHS staff follow all health and safety protocols, including mitigating strategies, during this pandemic. We are following guidance for social distancing, use of face coverings, handwashing, and sanitizing and disinfecting all work spaces. The health and safety of our community is our highest priority.

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