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COVID Outbreaks At Baltimore-Area Schools Raises Concerns For Parents

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As schools across Maryland deal with increasing COVID-19 cases and outbreaks, it's raising concerns for parents.

In Baltimore County from May 7–13, 23 schools reported an outbreak among students and staff. Now, Fort Garrison Elementary School in Pikesville is experiencing one. 

WJZ obtained a letter to families from the Fort Garrison School Principal, Dr. Hope Baier, who says 5% of the school's students and staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. 

"I feel very unsafe sending my child to school," said Alissa Abramson-Densky, whose third-grade daughter has asthma. 

Abramson-Densky is hoping the school will bring a mandate back, but said she's been told neither the school nor the county will do so.

In Baier's letter, the school sent home at-home COVID-19 testing kits with each child and the Office of Health Services is "strongly encouraging" students and staff to wear masks but don't go as far as to require it. 

A first-grade mother, Lisa Zajdel, whose son also attends Fort Garrison Elementary, said the decision of masking should remain up to the parents. 

She said masks had a negative effect on her son, Bradley, who told WJZ it was difficult for him to breathe in his masks at school and was relieved to see his teacher's face for the first time when they were able to take them off. 

But the outbreaks aren't solely in Baltimore County. Last week, a sixth-grade class returned to virtual learning at Roland Park Elementary Middle School in Baltimore City after 30 students tested positive from an indoor off-campus school event. 

The class has since returned to in-person learning. 

"There are lots of kids at schools who are unmasked . . . it does provide a fertile ground for this virus to spread," Dr. Aaron Milstone, Professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said.

But with the FDA authorizing a vaccine for children Tuesday, Milstone said it could mean fewer outbreaks in the future. 

"Hopefully that booster will help recharge kids' immunity to help protect them . . . and we also hope that it will reduce the risk that some kids will spread the virus to other people," Milstone said.

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