State Responds to New MoCo Shutdown of Private Schools

By Adam Pagnucco.

Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall has responded to Montgomery County’s new order shutting down private schools for in-person instruction. In a memo to the state’s health officers (including MoCo health officer Travis Gayles), Neall wrote, “The State of Maryland’s position is that all schools, including public school systems and non-public schools, be provided with the individualized opportunity to determine how they are able to comply with the federal and state COVID-19 guidance to reopen safely and protect students and staff. Those determinations should be made in close consultation with the affected schools and local health departments with Maryland Department of Health guidance.”

In other words, the state is saying once again that there should not be blanket closures of private schools.

So let’s stop back and take a broader view. The county’s original order shutting down private schools was based on authority contained in Governor Larry Hogan’s original emergency order. So Hogan amended his emergency order to exempt private schools from private shutdowns. The county said fine, we will issue a new shutdown order based on a different section of state law. Now Hogan’s health secretary is reiterating state authority over health policy and saying, “No you’re not.”

Looming over all of this is the tangled structure of appointment and reporting relationships between health officers and the state. Calvert County has a good description of that.

Neall’s memo to county health officers appears below.