Montgomery County talks teacher shortage, COVID-19 numbers and when county employees should be vaccinated by

What to expect when kids go back to school Monday? How soon, before there is a new health officer and where do COVID-19 numbers currently stand?

READ MORE: Montgomery County's back-to-school plans shifting due to COVID concerns

Those were just some of the few major topics that came up during Montgomery County‘s weekly briefing Wednesday.

County Executive Marc Elrich said that beginning Sept. 18, county employees must agree to either get vaccinated for the coronavirus or be tested weekly. 
After that, county officials said, they will have a better idea of which percentage of their workers have been vaccinated or have not.

The county executive added that he hopes, additional businesses will follow the county’s efforts on requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Out-going county health officer, Travis Gayles said that while the county is seeing an increase in the number of cases and test positivity rates—it is encouraging that they are not noticing a huge uptick in hospitalizations, in the same way the county dealt with them earlier in the pandemic.

During the briefing, interim, MCPS Superintendent, Dr. Monifa McKnight along with Gayles, talked about welcoming back more than 160,000 students on Monday, Aug. 30.

READ MORE: Alexandria City Public Schools open for in-person learning amid surge in US coronavirus cases

They acknowledged the recent Covid-19 outbreak at Quince Orchard High School, confirming that a majority of the 26 people infected, are on the varsity football team.

Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan asked county officials what exactly are the contingency plans in place for when schools might have to switch to hybrid or distance-learning. But school and county leaders offered no specifics about a threshold of case or hospitalization numbers.

"The same contact tracing polices that we have worked with MCPS as well as our non-public schools last year, are the same set of policies that we would put into place and execute as kids go back to school," Gayles explained.

"Recognizing that more than half of the pediatric population isn’t eligible to be vaccinated, we are keeping a close eye on the numbers to see how the trend lines go for kids."

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Meanwhile, McKnight said the school system is continuing to work on hiring more teachers as a result of a teacher shortage nationwide.

Right now, MCPS is short by 300 teachers but McKnight said the school district is currently seeking candidates from neighboring jurisdictions.

McKnight also said that an additional 50 mental health professionals will be hired within MCPS.

As far as who might be the next county health officer, is yet to be determined.

Elrich said he’s had one person reach out to him about the job but that their search will begin soon. He said once the county narrows down a candidate, the state will step in to help with making a final decision.