School Face Masks in Fall

A sign at the entrance to Tuscarora High School seen over the summer telling visitors that face coverings are required.

Frederick County Public Schools said Tuesday a pair of coronavirus cases at Tuscarora High School met the state criteria for an outbreak, making it the school system's first of the 2021-2022 school year.

According to the Maryland Department of Health, two or more confirmed cases among students or staff who are epidemiologically linked — but who don’t share a household — constitute a “classroom/cohort outbreak.”

“Frederick County currently has a high rate of community transmission, so we already have significant community spread here,” county health department spokeswoman Rissah Watkins wrote in an email to the News-Post. “While there is an epidemiologic link between the cases at Tuscarora High School, it does not necessarily mean that transmission occurred in school. It could still reflect general community spread rather than spread within the school community.”

Students returned to classes last Wednesday. On Monday, FCPS confirmed 28 students and 13 staff members tested positive for the virus last week. The school system did not provide data on how many students were in quarantine.

Board of Education member Brad Young said he wasn’t surprised by the news of the outbreak.

“I think it’s expected when you have that many people together in buildings,” Young said. “It’s going to be a nonstop event anywhere and everywhere.”

Board member Liz Barrett said she wasn’t expecting a school to cross the outbreak threshold quite so soon. But like Young, she acknowledged outbreaks and quarantines were a price the district would inevitably have to pay in order to get kids back in classrooms.

Barrett said she was concerned, however, about FCPS’ plans for keeping kids engaged during their 10-day quarantine period and its communication with families about quarantine plans.

In an email sent to Tuscarora families, Principal Christopher Berry wrote that close contacts of both positive individuals at the school had been directed to quarantine. The school isn’t planning to stop in-person instruction at this time, he added.

Frederick County is faring worse than the state as the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads.

On Monday, the county reported a rolling weekly average positivity rate of 6.73 percent, significantly higher than the statewide average of 4.89 percent. The county’s case rate per 100,000 people was higher than the state’s, too: Frederick’s figure stood at 22.46, while Maryland’s stood at 16.94.

Though masks are mandatory throughout FCPS this year, more than 98 percent of its 44,000 students are back in school buildings full-time. When students returned for hybrid learning last spring, they did so in much smaller numbers — allowing for physical distancing that’s no longer possible in most buildings.

“As many parents know, it’s not unusual for kids to get sick a few days after they start school since there are opportunities for students to be exposed to more people and therefore more respiratory viruses and other germs,” Watkins wrote. “We also know that the virus is widespread in our community already, so we expect cases to rise when people have more interactions, such as the start of school or large family or social gatherings.

“Parents should continue to have a high level of caution because the virus is widespread in our community right now,” Watkins added.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

(28) comments


Why isn't this appearing on the Frederick Covid Page?


Why is Walkersville High not on the list because have students that have tested positive?

This is not just about the students what the other people living in their homes that able to take the vaccine for medical reasons.



You are correct, but we have been putting focus on the largest populations hoping that it would break through the stupidity behind antivaxxers.

I believe the county is only providing data to the public on a week-by-week basis at this point.

It is my personal belief that this is going to get worse.


These things will happen, life goes on. Having children in classrooms is much more important for the future of society (unless you're okay with a generation of screen zombies with no discipline or social skills).

What gets me are the ones here complaining they weren't offered an all virtual option from FCPS, which they clearly were as far back as June. I guess you weren't paying to that though, oops.



The problem is that Delta was just in the beginning stages in June and parents couldn't plan around it because we didn't have the information about how bad it was.

I was on the fence until Delta appeared.


When will we stop living in a bubble? Let the world start again.



We will stop living in a bubble when the stupids start fulfilling their end of the social contract.




“…physical distancing that’s no longer possible in most buildings.” What bubble.



Besides Delta, the biggest thing that allowed in-school to work last year was virtual school. That kept school crowds lower than they would have been and helped increase social distancing.

Now that's been tremendously ramped down and we have a variant that is more easily transmissible. *SMH*


Brad Young downplaying the situation. What a disgusting person.



It is comments like these. Uncivil personal attacks that happen far too frequently in this section.(I am glad you post with your name -Kelly Alzan)

it is a tough job with decisions that impact thousands. But the desire to reopen, for the multitude of reasons, may be influencing the decision making that otherwise would err in the side of caution.



What should the appropriate response be to those who are willfully spreading disinformation that has the goal of causing pain, death and misery to fellow humans be?

Asking for a friend.


“I think it’s expected when you have that many people together in buildings,” Young said. “It’s going to be a nonstop event anywhere and everywhere.” This sounds to me that he is pointing out the reality of the situation we all find ourselves in - not downplaying, but simply being realistic.


No, Brad is a very good person, he does care, he will do what he can. And remember all the parents that wanted their children to go back to school, instead of virtual learning?

You are damned if you do and you are damned if you don't! But don't blame that on Brad!


I don't know why they didn't just keep the distance learning because they knew that this was going to be an issue!!


Two cases!!! Over 1,000 kids… kids go to Tuscarora and the mental health out weighs two cases!!!!


So….they weren’t your kids?


My kids are vaccinated, wear masks and I am not worried at all



While your kids may be vaccinated, it is looking like we are seeing breakthrough cases. That means that while your kids may not get seriously ill, they can be carriers and the host for the next variant that we may not be able to get a vaccine out in time to deal with.




OMG Enough with the mental health! If your children can't handle the stress of this how do you expect them to handle real life. Also if they are having mental health problems I guarantee that it has nothing to do with wearing a mask or doing distance learning.



I would much rather deal with mental health issues that death or Long-Haul COVID.

A psychiatrist bill is so much easier to pay for than a casket.



That's because leaders lead and the FCPS BOE has really terrible leadership.


I can't argue with that one



I know. The truth is undeniable. [sad]


If you are that unhappy with the FCPS BOE leadership, then do something to make a difference instead of complaining. Run for a position on the Board.



I'm considering it. I am already stretched too thin by a full time job and 2 kids.

I'm thinking about it though.

What are you doing to help?

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