August 28, 2020

Governor’s Briefing Recap: August 27, 2020

August 27, 2020 – Governor Hogan, Maryland State Department of Education and Maryland Department of Health School Update

Speakers:

  • Governor Larry Hogan
  • State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon
  • Acting Deputy Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan, Maryland Department of Health

Governor Hogan:

  • Back on March 12th – schools closed statewide because of the pandemic.
  • Our mitigation efforts have been extremely successful.
  • Statewide positivity rate is down to 3.3%, a decline of more than 87% since its peak 132 days ago.
  • WHO and CDC recommend that positivity rates remain at or below 5% for at least 14 consecutive days before moving forward to reopen. Maryland has been under 5% for the last 63 consecutive days (since June 25th) and has been under 4% for 19 consecutive days (since August 8th).
  • Last week, all 24 Maryland jurisdictions fell below 5% milestone; 17 of the 24 jurisdictions are below a positivity rate of 3.5%.
  • The gap in positivity rates among Marylanders under 35 years of age and those over 35 has narrowed. 
    • Those under 35 have declined by 44% since July 23rd to 3.79%
    • Those over 35 have dropped below 3% to 2.97%.
  • Hospitalizations have decreased 76% from 117 days ago, in the last month alone we have seen a 32% decline in ICU levels. 

Economy:

  • Economic recovery is better than other states across the country.
  • Maryland has added and regained 156,200 jobs in 90 days. 
  • Unemployment rate has dropped to 7.6%, while higher than the pandemic, is more than 25% better than National Unemployment rate.
  • Lowest number of unemployment claims this week.
  • Able to keep more than 70% of our economy open during this crisis and have had more than 98% of our economy open since we completed all Stage 2 Reopening’s 72 days ago on June 19th.

Schools:

  • $345 in additional education funding through the federal CARES Act
    • K-12 Technology funding
    • Competitive Innovation Grants (to address academic accessibility, remote learning enhancements, tutoring, learning programs for at risk students, and expanded broadband access)
  • As a result of improved health metrics, every single county school system in Maryland is now fully authorized to begin safely re-opening.

 

Deputy Secretary Chan:

  • MD Dept of Health has been carefully looking at guidance of CDC and other organizations so that we can develop our own metrics. The metrics that were selected are in line with what other states are already using and many that we are familiar with.  We are at levels that we believe can allow for some level of in person learning. 
  • This guidance should aid in decision making to move forward and allows each school flexibility.
  • Metrics: test positivity (the number of tests done and level of community spread) and case rate (number of cases per 100,000 people)
  • We will look at the 7-day rate average for a jurisdiction. IF below 5% and 5 cases per 100,000, in-person instruction should be in place along with social distancing recommendations. IF over 5% and higher, case rates should be able to put in place some partial in-person instruction.
  • All jurisdictions, by these metrics as of today, can open for some level of in-person instruction.

Key Reopening Guidance:

  1. Physical distancing, six feet or greater
  2. Face coverings at all times
  3. Staying home if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms
  4. Cleaning and disinfection Measures

 

Supertintendent Salmon:

  • Ensuring that our children return to school safely…is one of the greatest challenges facing the nation. 
  • Next week, the state board will discuss Salmon’s minimum number of hours she recommends for real time, face-to-face virtual instruction: Five days a week, six hours a day; at least 3.5 hours daily of that time should be guided by a teacher.
  • In light of those improving numbers and with the new metrics, I am strongly recommending that local school systems reevaluate their mode of instruction by the end of the First Quarter of the upcoming school year. Given the metrics, schools in the lowest risk jurisdictions should be able to resume some form of in-person instruction for pre-K through high school students with proper social distancing, hygiene measures, facial coverings and other mitigation practices in place.
  • At this point, 16 school jurisdictions have announced their intentions to begin small group instructions at various points in the Fall.
  • Calvert and Worchester Counties displayed how to properly social distance with small groups of students. 
  • The state stands ready to assist schools who are fully prepared to bring students back for in-person instruction.
  • $10 million in grant funding to be made available for systems who are able to move towards in-person instruction at the end of the first marking period.
  • School systems should continue to monitor and work with their local health systems to monitor the trends and metrics or any outbreaks in the area schools.
  • Childcare: More than 70% of childcare facilities have reopened their centers at this time.
  • We have received countless requests to raise the capacity restrictions on childcare programs and expand the number of children.
  • “It would be illogical to deny children the opportunity to return to the classroom only to increase the number of children congregating in another location, essentially serving as a de facto replacement for a school environment. We will continue to reassess whether we can increase the capacity in childcare classrooms.  We [Hogan and Salmon] will begin traveling to different school sites in the coming weeks to observe systems that are bringing small groups of students back into a safe and educationally effective environment.”

 

Q&A:

To Governor Hogan: Will you mandate schools reopen?

Hogan: The locally elected school boards have the authority to make these decisions, obviously with guidance from the State Board of Education.  Some local school systems have asked for more guidance and metrics which is what we provided today.  We’re not going to order them to come back and open schools. We will provide incentives as Dr. Salmon said. Sixteen school systems are bringing back students in some form for in-person in the fall, while 8 districts have not outlined a plan. 

 

To Governor Hogan: At what point do you step in to ensure these school systems are doing what they must do?

Hogan: We don’t have the authority to tell these school systems what to do … we are going to put pressure on them for them to plan and consider in-person given the new metrics … but will do what we can with what’s within the law…

Deputy Secretary Chan: The metrics that we laid out are general guidance for school systems and schools to be able to make some decisions.  However, if there are instances where there is a case or an outbreak, then that would be part of the partnership and discussion with the local health officer to make decisions about whether there may need to be additional mitigation measures OR if in fact if it is more widespread, whether a classroom may need to be shut down or, in certain circumstances, that particular school. Those will be taken on a case by case basis as we identify outbreaks.

 

To Governor Hogan: Would you like them to start the second quarter in person?

Hogan: My desire would  be to try to get as many kids back into as many classrooms as we can in a safe and possible way… I’m not going to dictate. 

Superintendent Salmon: People have been asking for more definitive metrics and that’s what Chan and I have been working on. Virtual instruction is very different for parents and children, especially little children.           

 

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