Justice adjusts threshold for schools re-entry metric

CHARLESTON – Governor Jim Justice’s COVID-19 update on Monday, Aug. 17 included some updates to the West Virginia School Re-entry Metrics and Protocols which he originally issued earlier in the month.

The governor also reiterated the warning that the re-entry plan would remain fluid.

Justice on Monday said the metric will remain based on each county’s number of new daily cases per 100,000 and will still follow a seven-day rolling average. However, he said the numbers associated with each color – green, yellow, orange and red – had been changed.

The updated threshold which allows fewer cases than originally designated as of Monday, Aug. 17 are:

  • GREEN – 3 and fewer cases per 100,000 residents (Upshur County 0.75 cases)
  • YELLOW – 3.1 to 9.9 cases per 100,000 residents (Upshur County 0.775 to 2.475 cases)
  • ORANGE – 10 to 24.9 cases per 100,000 residents and (Upshur County 2.5 to 6.225 cases)
  • RED – 25 cases or more per 100,000 residents. (Upshur County 6.25 cases or greater)

Upshur County has approximately 25,000 residents, so there would need to be roughly 6.25 new daily cases before the county would reach its ‘red’ threshold, which would suspend in-person school as well as extracurricular and athletic activities until the county cases falls back to the ‘yellow’ phase for seven days.

Under this updated color model, schools can continue with in-person school instruction, and athletic and extra-curricular activities would be permitted with a limited number of spectators while in the green phase.

When a county enters the yellow phase, schools would continue with in-person instruction, and local education leaders will work with county health departments to determine increased mitigation measures such as requiring masks for grades three and above in congregant settings where social distancing is limited.

During a yellow phase, athletic and extra-curricular activities will continue, and spectators are limited.

In the case of the orange phase, schools can continue in-person instruction and masks would be required for grades 3 through 5 in congregant settings and grades 6 and above at all times. Athletic and extracurricular activities would be limited to controlled practices and activities only.

If a county drops to red status, in-school instruction would be suspended, and the county would activate remote learning. Staff would continue essential student support services, which include meals, student engagement and special education services. All school-related athletic and extracurricular activities would be suspended until a yellow level is maintained on a seven-day rolling basis.

Justice said if a county has an outbreak in a contained location – such as a correctional facility or nursing home – all positive inmates/residents will still be counted as one positive incidence toward the metric since they will remain in a confined environment and will not contribute to community spread.

He said the number of positive staff members will each count as one full positive incidence toward the school metric because they have the potential to contribute to community spread outside of the facility or nursing home.

During the last Upshur County Board of Education meeting, BOE members voted 3-2 to accept a staggered blended re-entry framework for students in Upshur County Schools for families opting to attend school in-person.

Group A includes students with the last names of A to L who will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Thursdays while having remote learning on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Group B comprises students with the last name M to Z, and they will attend in school on Tuesdays and Fridays with remote learning scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

A copy of the Upshur County Re-entry framework submitted to the West Virginia Department of Education is accessible here.

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