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COVID-19 outbreaks seen at Baltimore County private schools

BALTIMORE (AP) — Three Orthodox Jewish day schools in Baltimore County have reported large numbers of COVID-19 cases in the past two months.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the outbreaks prompted one middle school to shut down and move to virtual learning for a week.

The outbreaks are far larger than others seen in public or private schools since the state’s mandatory reporting requirements began in October. County health officials said they have been working with the schools, but declined to detail what measures have been taken at each to contain the outbreaks, which began shortly after Thanksgiving.

The Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, a century-old, kindergarten through 12th grade school in Pikesville, had 62 cases inside the school Feb. 3, according to Maryland’s COVID-19 school dashboard. That number was by far the most cases reported in a single school since October. The school will be closed for two weeks, including one week of virtual instruction and a week of vacation.

The next highest number of cases was 45 at Bais Yaakov Eva Winer High School, a girls school with about 425 students.

The Torah Institute in Owings Mills had 26 cases as of Jan. 27.

At the Talmudical Academy, most of the cases have been in the middle school, said Rabbi Yaacov Cohen, executive director.

“We hope to see a significant reduction in cases upon the return to school. Working with the health department, we have also adopted several additional mitigation steps moving forward,” Cohen said.

Sandy L. Nissel, the CEO of Bais Yaakov, said in an email that the school is working with the health department.

“Our assessment is that spread in general does not occur in school, but rather at home,” he said.

Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch said his department’s staff visit any school where cases are discovered and make recommendations to prevent spread. Speaking about school cases in general, he said that in some instances his department has recommended schools take longer vacation breaks so they can tamp down the virus.

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