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Justice: Schools in ‘orange’ counties to move to remote instruction

CHARLESTON — Citing rising case numbers during his Friday COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Jim Justice announced that, going forward, schools in counties designated as orange in the West Virginia Department of Education’s official 5 p.m. Saturday update of the County Alert Map will stop in-person instruction and move to a full-remote learning model.

“We’ve got to continue to work together as West Virginians because our numbers are going the wrong way,” Justice said. “We’ve got to continue to try to protect the health and the safety of all West Virginians. And, in my opinion, it is not safe, with our numbers trending the way they are, to continue to go to school if we’re in orange.”

Athletic and extracurricular activities will be limited to conditioning only when a county is orange. No sport-specific or contact practices will be permitted. Marching band activities must be limited to outdoors only. Instruments are permitted only when students are stationary and distanced in pods. The WVSSAC will release additional guidance documents soon.

A mid-week color status change from green or yellow to orange, as reported on the DHHR Dashboard, would not immediately trigger these restrictions. Countywide restrictions under an orange designation only take effect if a county is classified as orange on the WVDE’s official Saturday map update.

These restrictions will only be lifted if and when a county reaches green or yellow status in a subsequent official Saturday map update.

Mid-week color status only comes into play if a county reaches a red designation. If a county reaches red status, all in-person activities are halted immediately, regardless of the day of the week.

The change comes as a result of increases in several categories of COVID-19 numbers. Additionally, West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – increased Friday afternoon to 1.42; it is now the highest and worst such rate in the country.

“We’ve all got to step up our level of concern,” Gov. Justice said. “To just tell it like it is, we’ve got to get afraid again. We’ve gotten complacent.

“If we don’t watch out, it’ll come home to some families tomorrow,” Gov. Justice continued. “Those families are full of real people. They have names. They’re West Virginians. All of us have got to take responsibility.”

Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided a look at West Virginia’s latest mid-week map update.

The map is updated throughout the week for informational purposes and to provide an indication of how each county is trending ahead of each Saturday; the time when each county is assigned its official color designation for the next week, which determines the level of scholastic, athletic, and extracurricular activities permitted in each county for that particular week.

As of Friday morning, a total of 24 counties were green, while 20 counties were yellow.

Ten counties were orange: Boone, Calhoun, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, Mingo, Monroe, Pocahontas, Putnam, and Wayne counties.

One county was red: Monongalia County.

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