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No Telling Who Will Be Vaccinated When Baltimore County Schools Open For The Fall

Credit: Baltimore County

When Baltimore County Public Schools open later this month, officials will not know for sure which teachers and students have been vaccinated for COVID-19. That’s according to what officials told the school board Tuesday at a special meeting on the back-to-school plans to deal with the virus.

Debbie Somerville, the coordinator of the county schools’ office of health services, said the state is not requiring students to have the COVID vaccine to attend school. If it did, then the county could track who’s received it because students’ immunization records are uploaded into a state data base.

Somerville estimates that fewer than half of the students who can get the vaccine have been inoculated.

“It’s really important for us to remember that even of the eligible population in Baltimore County, less than 50% of our 18-and-unders appear to have been vaccinated based on our county-level data,” Somerville said.

Currently, children under 12 are not eligible for the COVID 19 vaccine.

Somerville said they are not tracking the staff either, but they will ask those who are not vaccinated to voluntarily take a home COVID test weekly.

“So that’s another way, a different approach, to ensuring safety that kind of honors people’s privacy without getting into tracking their vaccine status.”

Somerville added that they are working with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Maryland State Health Department to get the COVID test kits.

Meanwhile, School Superintendent Darryl Williams told the board they are exploring the possibility of eventually tracking the vaccination status of staff members.

“There are still a lot of questions around that,” Williams said.

Whether you’ve been vaccinated or not, you will have to wear a mask in a Baltimore County school building this fall. The school system announced plans last week for universal mask wearing in school buildings.

At Tuesday’s meeting, student board member Christian Thomas asked how the masking requirement will be enforced.

“Are there any consequences in place right now for any students who refused to wear masks in schools or for parents that would not allow their children to wear masks in schools?” asked Thomas.

He was told that that is still being worked out.

“We don’t want as a school system to turn away students, but health and safety is most important,” said Monique Wheatley-Phillip, the school system’s chief accountability officer.

Board members were told other COVID mitigation steps will be in place this fall as well, including daily cleaning of schools, contact tracing, and physical distancing as much as possible.

“What we’ve learned from this summer, what we learned from this spring, will tell us what we need to do in the fall to help our students to be prepared as well as our staff,” Williams told the board.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2