COVID-19 Protocols Update - January 11, 2022
Posted January 11, 2022
UPDATE: Masking in Schools
The Maryland State Board of Education updated and extended the emergency regulation requiring all individuals to wear face coverings inside school buildings. The mandate was recently approved by the State’s Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) Committee.
The emergency regulation outlines metrics or “off-ramps” whereby face masks can again become optional. The face covering requirement in schools can be lifted locally if one or more of the following occurs:
- 80% of Washington County’s population is fully vaccinated as reported by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH)
- 80% of the school staff and students in a specific school facility have been verified to be fully vaccinated
- Washington County has sustained 14 consecutive days of moderate or low transmission rate of COVID-19 cases, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The emergency regulation also requires the confidentiality of vaccination status consistent with Federal and State law. The mandate will be in effect for 180 days from January 5, 2022, unless the State Board withdraws the measure.
Updated Guidelines for Performing Arts
The updated emergency regulation also includes new guidelines for the use of face coverings in performing arts activities, such as dance, music, and theater practices and performances.
- Students who play woodwind or brass instruments that require the instrument to contact their mouth may lower their masks when they are actively playing. Students will wear their masks when they are not actively playing.
- Students are not required to wear face masks when they are engaged in exercise in the performing arts setting. Exercise may consist of activities such as marching or dancing. Students who prefer to wear a mask during exercise are encouraged to do so.
- Students are not required to wear masks during school-approved dress rehearsals or performances. Students who prefer to wear a mask during dress rehearsals and performances are encouraged to do so.
Audience members must wear a mask inside school buildings and are asked to distance themselves from others outside their household to the greatest extent possible. Families are also asked to promptly exit performances, pick up their children, and not congregate inside the school building.
New Isolation and Quarantine Periods
Based on updated guidance from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) is now providing shortened isolation and quarantine periods for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and close contacts. WCPS is currently using automated phone calls to provide isolation and return to school dates for COVID-positive students. The WCPS COVID-19 Response Team is experiencing an increase in calls and emails requesting guidance during this time, and they are working to respond to all inquiries as quickly as possible.
Isolation for COVID-positive individuals
Students and staff who test positive must isolate and cannot attend school for a minimum of five (5) days from the test date or the onset of symptoms, whichever date is first. Individuals should stay home until symptoms improve, and they must be fever-free without the use of medication for 24 hours. Upon returning to school, these individuals must wear a face covering in all settings, including physical education, performing arts, and athletics for five (5) additional days.
Quarantine for close contacts
Our learning community is reminded that students and staff who were wearing a mask when in close contact with a COVID-positive individual are exempt from quarantines within WCPS. If anyone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they should not attend school and are encouraged to seek testing.
- Individuals who are in close contact with a COVID-positive person in school while wearing a mask and are not experiencing symptoms of the virus do not need to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.
- Individuals who are in close contact with a COVID-positive person while not wearing a mask and are not experiencing symptoms of the virus must quarantine for five days unless they are vaccinated or have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
- Individuals who are in close contact with a COVID-positive person and are experiencing symptoms of the virus must quarantine for five days, regardless of vaccination or masking status. These individuals should also seek COVID-19 testing.
- Individuals returning from quarantine must wear a face covering in all settings, including physical education, performing arts, and athletics for five (5) additional days.
- Individual situations may warrant a longer quarantine period. The COVID-19 Response Team will address those circumstances with families.
Reminders for Athletic Events
While the updated State Board emergency regulation does not include any additional measures for high school athletics, WCPS reminds our learning community of the following protocols:
- Student athletes are not required to wear face coverings when they are actively engaged in exercise during practices and competitive play. Masks will be worn on the sidelines and when players are not actively exercising.
- Spectators at athletic events must wear face coverings inside school buildings and should socially distance themselves from others outside their household to the greatest extent possible.
- Spectators are asked to promptly exit competitions, pick up their children, and not congregate inside the school building.