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Montgomery County Health Officer Issues Directive to Protect Public Health; Prohibits the Opening of Private Schools

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 31, 2020

           Citing the need to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents as well as parents, students, teachers and staff from the spread of COVID-19, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today directed nonpublic schools in Montgomery County to remain closed for in-person instruction through Oct. 1, 2020. The health officer will reevaluate the order before Oct. 1 to determine if it should be extended, terminated or amended in any way. The Health Officer Directive goes into effect Monday, Aug. 3.   

           “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have based our decisions on science and data,” said Dr. Gayles. “At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers. We have seen increases in transmission rates for COVID-19 in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia, particularly in younger age groups, and this step is necessary to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents.”

            This decision comes as cases of COVID-19 in the state and region have been increasing in recent weeks. As of July 31, Maryland has more than 88,000 cases of COVID-19 and 8,377 young people (19 years of age and younger) have tested positive for the virus; and these case numbers continue to increase. In Montgomery County, there are 17,568 cases of COVID-19, and 750 people have lost their lives due to the virus. 

           Nonpublic schools are defined as any school located in Montgomery County, Maryland that are not public schools. This includes, but is not limited to all private pay schools, schools affiliated with religious institutions, or schools that are otherwise considered to be independent schools.  Montgomery County Public Schools recently announced they would open virtually for the fall semester, as will other public school systems in the region.

            A person who knowingly and willfully violates the Order is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction, is subject to imprisonment not to exceed one year, a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both. 

            Based on CDC best practices for the reopening of schools, County health officials will continue to monitor the epidemiological surveillance data and that will guide the decision as to when it is safe to reopen private and public schools. 

            For the latest COVID-19 updates, visit the County’s COVID-19 website as well as the County’s data dashboard or follow Montgomery County on Facebook @MontgomeryCountyInfo and Twitter @MontgomeryCountyMD

            Put the “count” in Montgomery County! Be sure to complete the Census online, by phone, or by mail. It’s safe, confidential, easy, and important. #2020Census #EveryoneCountsMCMD 

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Release ID: 20-419
Media Contact: Mary Anderson 240-777-6507