Maryland experienced a single-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases of 733 Tuesday, its highest total in more than a month.
With the state at more than 74,000 cases and health officials wary of a possible surge, teachers’ union and PTA representatives held a joint virtual press conference requesting public schools hold virtual and online learning for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.
“We believe it is the right approach and the safe one,” said Cheryl Bost, president of the state education association. “Making this decision now would give every district at least a full six weeks to plan and troubleshoot around one known and understood model of learning.”
Her organization sent a joint letter with the Baltimore Teachers Union and Maryland PTA to Gov. Larry Hogan and Superintendent Karen Salmon highlighting risks teachers, staff and students face if they begin in-person learning too soon.
According to the letter, the state doesn’t have enough personal protection equipment and testing equipment for educators and students. The letter also contends that constant social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands would be a challenge for students and staff and some buildings remain without ventilated spaces.
The delaying of in-person education would allow the state to continue to improve the digital divide between white students and their Black and Latino counterparts.
“We prefer in-person teaching, but also we prefer our lives over everything. We prefer our students’ lives over convenience,” said Diamonté Brown, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. “It is right now the safest way. This is not a selfish act. This is a selfless act.”
Tonya Sweat, vice president of advocacy for the Maryland PTA, said parents will fight to ensure the safety of their children.
“In ordinary times, parents would not have no qualms sending their babies off to school to learn. These are not ordinary times,” said Sweat, an Accokeek resident. “Until we can get a full response to the coronavirus, it is reckless to ask parents to return their children to school buildings.”
Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson is scheduled to announce reopening plans at noon Wednesday. Later on that day at 5:30 p.m., she will host a community town hall. Another one with employees will be held Thursday at the same time.
Meanwhile, Hogan appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press” and spoke about whether to open schools in person during the week. The governor met with Salmon Monday.
“I think everybody would like to get our kids back to school as quickly as we can, but we also want to do it and make sure that our kids are going to be as safe as possible,” he said. “We’re not going to be rushed into this. We’re going to come up with a plan that is probably going to be a hybrid that talks about how we’re going to provide the best education we can for our kids and do it in a safe way.”
On Tuesday, Hogan released a letter with some strong words for county and Baltimore City leaders to enforce the state’s order in regard to bars and restaurants.
The guidelines implemented June 10 mandate that no more than six people are seated at a table, patrons and employees wear face coverings and standing and congregating in bar areas remain strictly prohibited.
One main reason: the positivity rate of those 35 and younger now exceed that of residents above that age by 84 percent.
“You have the responsibility to enforce these laws. Violators should be warned, fined, have actions taken regarding their licenses, or closed if necessary,” Hogan wrote. “Local health departments, local liquor boards and inspectors, and local law enforcement agencies must work together to ensure public health is protected.”
In Prince George’s County, which continues to pace the state in confirmed cases with 20,260 currently reported, the health department now requires all public safety workers — police, fire and emergency personnel — to take a coronavirus test. The order went in effect Monday.
“We are testing all of our public safety employees because they interact with the public on a daily basis,” chief health officer Ernest Carter said in a memo. “We are taking this proactive step because we know that individuals can be asymptomatic and spread the virus.”