ANNAPOLIS — Maryland public school students will not return this school year following an announcement by State Superintendent Karen B. Salmon Wednesday afternoon.
Salmon announced the closure of schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Salmon said that after extensive discussions with the Maryland State Board of Education, the Maryland Health Department and additional health experts, she was convinced the closure of schools was the appropriate decision to protect the health and safety of students, educators and staff at Maryland schools.
Online and distance learning opportunities will continue, Salmon said. She added that the state DOE is releasing a comprehensive plan for long term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic called Maryland Together Recovery Plan for Education.
She said the plan lays the groundwork for the coming months to identify methods for lost instruction time. It also establishes the foundation for school systems to help them determine how to bring students and educators back into school buildings in a safe way.
Salmon said the plan does not issue mandates to school systems but offers options developed from best practices.
Stage one not ready, but some activities now open
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that while the state is not quite ready to begin stage one of the Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery, based upon advice from medical professionals and scientists working with the state, the state is able to move forward with resuming additional lower risk outdoor activities.
Effective Thursday at 7 a.m. the list of safe outdoor activities will be broadened to include golf, tennis, boating, fishing, camping and other activities. The state will also be opening closed functions at state parks including all state beaches for walking and exercise and safe playgrounds and parks. Hogan said local governments will also have the ability to open up similar activities in their communities at their discretion.
Hogan did say he was hopeful that the numbers the state is tracking respective to hospitalizations and intensive care admissions would continue to see a leveling trend. He noted that over the last seven days, five have seen reductions in the number of hospitalizations and that overall the numbers are down from a week ago. Also, ICU numbers have been flat for eight straight days, he said.
Hogan noted that if these trends continue for at least 14 days, the state will be ready to lift the stay at home order and implement stage one of the Roadmap to Recovery.
Progress made in recovery plan
Hogan said the state has made progress in the four essential building blocks of the state’s recovery plan, which include: expanded testing, increased hospital surge capacity, supply of personal protective equipment and a robust contact tracing operation.
Hogan said in addition to the 500,000 tests acquired from South Korea, the state has also increased its lab capability through acquiring reagents and materials including a recent shipment of swabs from FEMA.
Hogan said the state has also increased the surge capacity relating to the number of hospital beds available. The goal was originally 6,000 beds, but Hogan said the state now has 8,100 additional surge beds including 2,400 ICU beds.
The state has also received additional PPE equipment due to work from the state’s multi-agency task force. Hogan said the state has received 4.5 million KN-95, 65,000 N-95 masks, 150,000 medical gowns, 1.1 million face shields, 3.5 million surgical gloves and he said more is coming in to warehouses on a daily basis.