Community Message From MCPS Medical Officer

Below is a message from the MCPS Medical Officer:

“Dear MCPS Community:

Today, I am sharing about MCPS’ efforts in reducing the potential impact of respiratory illnesses on the school system, in line with our commitment to wellbeing and learning. These efforts focus on reducing respiratory virus transmission, continuing COVID-19 mitigation to reduce spread in schools, and minimizing interruptions to learning. We continue to work closely with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to monitor health trends and provide resources and support for our community.

This winter has brought with it a new public health challenge. COVID is still with us, and while many advances in prevention and treatment have been made, an early surge in other viruses like influenza and RSV is presenting a combined challenge to our local health care system and our region.

Reducing Transmission of Respiratory Infections in Schools

  • To help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, we continue to promote and support healthy behaviors like good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying away from others when sick.

  • As COVID-19 rates have increased since Thanksgiving weekend, Montgomery County has moved to a MEDIUM Community Risk Level. Our health department is strongly recommending a well-fitting face covering in crowded indoor spaces with limited social distancing.

  • Given the impact on our community of multiple surging respiratory viruses at this time, staff and students who can safely mask are strongly encouraged to do so, especially if they have cold or cough symptoms, in high risk exposure situations, or if they are at risk for severe complications from respiratory illness. After prior holiday breaks, we have seen the highest transmission risk for respiratory infections in the 2 weeks after students return to school.

Managing COVID-19 Cases and Exposures

Testing remains an important way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our school settings.

  • Test kits have been distributed to schools and worksites for all staff and students to take home for the holiday break.

  • Staff and students are strongly encouraged to test prior to returning from the holiday break, especially if they have any symptoms of or a potential exposure to COVID-19.

We continue to test students presenting with possible COVID-19 symptoms during the school day, and partner with DHHS in COVID-19 case investigation and outbreak management. DHHS offers free COVID-19 vaccine clinics and testing to Montgomery County residents; free test kits can also be ordered by mail through COVID.gov.  MCPS students, family members and staff can also receive COVID-19 vaccines at weekend school-based clinics, which will resume after the holiday break.

Minimizing Interruptions to Learning

MCPS continuously monitors multiple measures including COVID-19 rates and staff and student absence trends to identify schools early that may need additional support to maintain ongoing learning and safe supervision. Early interventions include community notification, escalating infection control measures locally, and staffing support, among other measures.  These metrics and school-level contingency plans are described in MCPS’ 2022-2023 Reopening Guide.

As we look back on the unprecedented challenges we have overcome together in the past two school years, we also confidently look forward to a happy – and ever-more healthy – 2023.

Sincerely,

Patricia Kapunan, M.D., M.P.H.
MCPS Medical Officer”

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