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CUMBERLAND, Md. — While Allegany County more than tripled some of Maryland’s COVID-19 case rates Tuesday, issues surrounding students and the virus dominated the local school board meeting.

Local health officer Jenelle Mayer attended the Allegany County Public Schools Board of Education meeting to answer questions on topics that ranged from crowded school buses to quarantine guidelines.

Much of the discussion surrounded the county’s rapidly increasing COVID-19 case rates.

The Maryland Department of Health Tuesday reported Allegany County by far topped the state’s seven-day moving average COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 people at 68.77, with the statewide rate at 18.63, Garrett County at 37.42 and Washington County at 34.52.

Last year at this time, Allegany County’s rate for that metric was 3.45.

“We’re about three times the state rate as of right now in Allegany County,” Mayer said. “We continue to be in the high category for community transmission.”

Roughly 43% of Allegany County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, whereas Maryland’s rate is more than 63%.

Nearly 27% of children ages 12 to 17 in the county are fully vaccinated, “and in Maryland that number if 58.6%,” she said.

“The vaccinated student has a level of protection that an unvaccinated student does not,” she said.

The Allegany County Health Department follows COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and MDH in conjunction with the Maryland State Department of Education, Mayer said.

“(Quarantine) situations can get complicated when you have siblings, multiple parents, depending on who is positive and what their exposure is to others in the household,” she said.

For school buses, ACHD recommends keeping windows open to increase airflow and “try to minimize crowding as best you can,” Mayer said.

ACPS Superintendent Jeff Blank said the school administration will consider available options to help quarantined students receive education.

“We’re learning as we move forward,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we make as many accommodations as possible.”

There’s not a “solid answer” for everyone, Blank said.

Board member Debra Frank said some parents recently expressed fear of the growing COVID-19 case rate in the county and want the option for their children to be in a virtual learning environment.

“We have not to this point allowed that possibility because that’s hard to plan for,” she said.

“We’ve got to have opportunities for these parents who feel paralyzed because a decision they made in July is impacting their child now,” Frank said.

“These numbers are horrible,” she said of low vaccination rates and high COVID-19 case percentages. “In the worst of the worst last year, we were looking at numbers that were actually better than this.”

Frank suggested, especially for students that are quarantined, the possibility that teachers could video record their classes.

“In a million years I would never recommend concurrent teaching,” she said. “But I’m wondering even if teachers could film themselves … that students could view some time at their leisure.”

Genevieve Batman, the alternate student member of the board, asked school officials to “please avoid” concurrent learning, which she said disadvantages people in the classroom as well as those “behind the screen.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jason Haggerty said he is “furious” children are made to wear masks in school.

“It upsets me that other people are making choices for my kids,” he said. “I don’t need the government in my life.”

Teresa McMinn is the Digital Editor for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or tmcminn@times-news.com.

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