COVID cases drop in FCPS, but remain higher than pre-omicron levels

·2 min read

Jan. 22—Mirroring countywide trends, COVID cases in Frederick County Public Schools dropped sharply this week but stayed higher than they'd been at any point before the omicron surge.

The district reported 479 positive coronavirus cases between Sunday and Thursday of this week, compared to 975 reported during the same time frame last week. That's a decrease of 50 percent.

The county's case rate per 100,000 residents, meanwhile, was 207 last Thursday and 114 this Thursday, a decrease of 45 percent.

As of Friday afternoon, six classrooms across FCPS were in a temporary virtual format: three at Rock Creek School, one at Carroll Manor Elementary, and one each at Middletown Primary and Middletown Elementary.

The district monitors staff and student positivity rates and attendance rates when deciding whether a cohort should move to a temporary virtual format. FCPS' dashboard showed Rock Creek and Wolfsville Elementary School were under review as of Friday afternoon, with student positivity rates of 6.8 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Woodsboro-New Midway and Wolfsville elementary schools, Rock Creek School and Thurmont Primary School were under review for having staff positivity rates above 5 percent. Woodsboro-New Midway's rate was the highest at 9.8 percent.

"We continue to navigate and make sure we're monitoring where our schools and our community is right now so that we can make the best decisions," FCPS spokesperson Eric Louérs-Phillips said.

While the overall trend of decreasing cases is welcome news, Frederick County Health Department spokesperson Rissah Watkins warned that the sheer number of infections remained higher than at any other time during the pandemic.

That can easily lead to an overwhelmed health care system, she said, even though the omicron variant is less likely to cause severe illness or death than other variants have been.

"The number of people getting sick is very, very large. A smaller percentage of a very big number is still a big number," she said. "It all comes back to the denominator."

While 84 percent of the county's residents over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, only 32 percent of children 5 to 9 and 60 percent of people 10 to 18 have received their full course of shots.

Watkins reminded the community that all Marylanders 5 and older are eligible for a vaccine, and everyone over 12 is eligible for a booster.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek