COVID Cases Drop Significantly in Schools and County

“There has been a significant decrease in [COVID-19] cases since classes resumed Jan. 5,” Montgomery County Public Schools Chief of Staff James D’Andrea told Montgomery County councilmembers Tuesday morning.

“The numbers have been consistently much lower than they were back in early January,” D’Andrea said.

On Jan. 5, soon after students returned to the classrooms from winter break, 2,833 cases of COVID-19 were reported. On Jan. 29, the number of cases reported to MCPS was only 37.

During the period between Jan. 22 to Jan. 31, 1,187 families reported their child had tested positive. From Jan. 5 to Jan. 14, 14,125 cases were reported.

Currently, four MCPS schools have reverted to virtual learning.

The numbers for bus routes not serviced have also been decreasing. Many bus drivers have returned to work. And every route was covered Tuesday, according to D’Andrea.

Also, the number of substitutes available to cover classrooms has increased while the demand for substitutes has decreased.

On Jan. 5, there were 1,225 requests for substitute teachers districtwide. Only 390 of those requests were met, D’Andrea said. By Jan. 31, both the number of requests and number of substitutes available have “declined significantly,” D’Andrea said. Currently, more than 50% of the requests are being met, he said.

MCPS now has more than 120 case investigators who follow up with anyone testing positive. Previously, the school district was using available principals and administrators to do this work. But now contracted workers from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services are taking on this role.

As things begin to improve, MCPS currently is considering an opt-in COVID-19 testing program that will enable fewer students automatically quarantine if they are considered in close contact with someone testing positive. Montgomery County Deputy Health Officer Dr. James Bridgers said he expected to issue new guidance on that “sometime early next week.”

Throughout the county, during the past seven days, there have been an average of 270 cases per 100,000 residents, which is considered high transmission. 405 new cases were reported Feb. 1.

After learning of the case reductions both in schools and throughout the county, Councilmember Hans Riemer said, “It feels like the storm has passed.” He praised the emergency measures the county has adopted, including an indoor mask mandate and the closing of some businesses. But he added now is the time to lessen restrictions.

He advised the council to “keep up with the vaccination push” and to stockpile masks and test kits in case another variant emerges or cases rise next winter.

“I think we are going to have a great spring. We ought to be able to let people live their lives, especially kids,” he said.

Assistant County Administrator Dr. Earl Stoddard agreed, calling a relaxation of restrictions necessary “to keep good faith with our residents.”


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