Montgomery Co. high school COVID-19 outbreak is growing – Community News
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Montgomery Co. high school COVID-19 outbreak is growing

The COVID-19 outbreak at a high school in Montgomery County, Maryland has grown.

The COVID-19 outbreak at a high school in Montgomery County, Maryland has grown.

Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville reported six additional cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to a letter to parents from the school system. That brings the total number of COVID-19 cases reported at the school since Friday to 21 – 19 involving students and two involving staff.

In the wake of the growing number of cases, the school system said the school is now pausing exercises and games in its wrestling program.

On Monday, the school temporarily suspended the varsity and JV boys’ basketball practices and games due to the outbreak.

Speaking to reporters at a media briefing Wednesday, Earl Stoddard, the county’s assistant chief executive, said most cases are breakthrough cases because they involve students who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

He pointed to the fact that teens were first allowed to receive COVID-19 injections in May, but are currently ineligible for booster doses, which are believed to potentially stimulate declining levels of immunity.

“You may see more breakthrough cases in that population the further you get away from their second dose, so that becomes important to understand for the students, especially the 12 to 17 year olds who fall into that gap of… get vaccinated six months ago and are not eligible for a booster,” he said.

Booster vaccine doses are currently only allowed for adults.

The school is holding a vaccine clinic on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Increase in hospital admissions

Overall, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Montgomery County and so are hospital admissions, which officials say are more concerning.

In the past month, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has doubled from 66 to 130. That is approaching a recent peak earlier this fall, driven by the delta variant.

What is driving the increase in hospital admissions now?

Officials said they’re not entirely sure, but it’s likely a combination of factors. The rise in hospital admissions comes amid an overall increase in the number of cases. Another reason: possibly declining immunity of people who were vaccinated several months ago and who have not yet received their booster injections.

“We’re just starting to really fully boost people who were vaccinated months and months ago,” Stoddard said. “And so we’re probably still seeing some of our population have dwindling immunity if they’re not already boosted, which is another encouragement to come out and get a boost.”

In addition, there is a precedent for a winter peak. Last year, the province saw a rapid rise in cases in the late fall, although the rise in cases started a month earlier this year.


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“There seems to be a periodicity of how the spikes occur, and we may be at the start of our next spike here,” said Sean O’Donnell, manager of public health and emergency preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services of the United States. the province.

While hospital admissions have increased, the number of serious illnesses remains well below last year’s current level, when the seven-day average number of COVID-19 hospitalizations was 276.

Vaccine passport?

Amid the surge in hospital admissions, the county’s overall vaccination rate continues to rise. Montgomery County was already one of the most vaccinated counties in the US, and the high demand for young children ages 5 to 11 to get vaccinated has helped the rates rise even further.

Under health regulations that include the county’s much-discussed mask mandate, the face covering requirement, which is currently tied to the level of community transmission, will be completely repealed once 85% of the county’s residents are fully vaccinated. As of earlier this week, just over 80% of residents had been fully vaccinated.

Stoddard said county officials would like to meet with county council members, who act as the health board, before hitting the 85% threshold to consider whether the county should take a different approach.

“We want to make sure we give them the right information so we can all be very intentional,” he said.

Officials previously estimated that the province could reach the 85% threshold by early 2022.

If hospital admissions continue to rise and prevention measures are warranted beyond the current mask mandate, Stoddard said the county wants to avoid closures and “mass restrictions” in favor of a vaccine passport program that would, for example, require customers to be fully vaccinated before dining out or visiting other entertainment venues. .

“That’s probably the arena of things where, if things get worse, particularly in hospitalizations, that much more are the things we’re going to be advocating and talking about, as opposed to broader restrictions,” Stoddard said.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he is not a fan of the 85% threshold after which the mask mandate would end.

“I know people kicked it as a sort of herd immunity,” he said. “The problem with that theory is that if you have a variant that causes reinfection in the herd, the herd isn’t really immune.”

A vaccine passport approach requires a Health Council regulation that has been adopted by the provincial council. Elrich said he’s not sure the state of Maryland would take the approach even if the council approved it. “But I think it’s worth finding out,” he said.

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