According to Hogan, the health metrics his state uses to monitor the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic “look great” and have “dramatically improved” enough to allow schools to bring students back with proper health and safety measures in place.
The statewide positivity rate for COVID-19 is now down to 3.3 percent and has been under 4 percent since Aug. 8—which is below the 5 percent benchmark recommended by the World Health Organization and the federal government for 63 consecutive days since June 25.
“As a result of our improved health metrics, every single county school system in the State of Maryland is now fully authorized to begin safely reopening,” said Hogan during a press briefing. “Nearly everyone agrees that there is no substitute for in-person instruction. It is essential that we all work together on flexible hybrid plans to safely get some of our kids back into classrooms and into healthy and supportive learning environments.”
The Republican governor noted that 16 of Maryland’s 24 county school systems have rolled out plans to provide at least some in-person learning in the coming months. He urged the eight districts that have decided to exclusively offer online classes to reconsider.
“Some of the county school boards have not even attempted to develop any safe reopening plans which would bring any kids back for any form of in-person instruction,” Hogan said. “This is simply not acceptable.”
That being said, the final decision is still up to individual school boards. “We’re not going to order [school systems] to go back and open schools,” said Hogan, acknowledging that he lacks authority to do so under state law.
Jinlene Chan, Maryland’s acting deputy secretary for public health, presented county-specific benchmarks during the Thursday briefing to help school systems determine if should should open. She said schools in jurisdictions with a positivity rate below 5 percent and a case rate of 5 per 100,000 people should be able to return to partial or full in-person learning, depending on the number of cases.
“By these metrics, all jurisdictions across the state of Maryland could open for some level of in-person instruction,” Chan said.
Meanwhile, the Maryland State Education Association criticized the announcement, blaming Hogan’s administration for “abdicating responsibility” by telling school districts to develop their own plans instead of creating a statewide reopening standard.
“Now they undercut hard decisions schools have made to keep students & educators safe days before the year begins,” the 75,000 members strong teachers’ union wrote on Twitter. “This is a recipe for chaos & confusion.”