Most schools in West Virginia close as COVID-19 outbreak intensifies

Less than one in four West Virginia counties will have students in school next week as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to increase.

With the outbreak showing no signs of slowing, most of the state now enters an extended holiday break not knowing when students might be able to return to the classroom.

The school map has changed dramatically in the last month. On the Nov. 14 map, just one county was red and a handful were orange. Now 14 counties are red and nearly two dozen are orange.

The Harvard map, upon which the West Virginia version is based, lists 51 of the 55 counties as red.

West Virginia reported a single-day record increase of more than 1,500 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. Nearly 20 state residents are now dying from the virus every day.

Here’s the full press release on this week’s school map:

The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) has posted the Dec.12, 2020, Saturday Education Map that determines which counties will hold in-person and blended instruction. The map is developed with information from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and vetted by the COVID-19 Data Review Panel.

The weekly updates are posted at https://wvde.us/reentrymetrics. County plans should be reviewed for additional requirements.

Red (Substantial Community Transmission): Counties must move to remote learning. Staff may report to their schools, as determined by the county. Essential support services, including special education and meals, will continue.

Red counties include: Berkeley, Brooke, Clay, Grant, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Marshall, Mason, Mineral, Ritchie, Tyler, Wirt, Wyoming

Orange (Heightened Community Transmission): Remote learning required. Staff may report to their schools, as determined by the county. Essential support services, including special education and meals, will continue.

Orange counties include: Barbour, Boone, Cabell, Doddridge, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Mingo, Monongalia, Morgan, Nicholas, Ohio, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Wayne, Wetzel, Wood

Gold (Elevated Community Transmission): In-person instruction permitted with increased mitigations including face coverings for children grades 3 and above at all times.

Gold counties include: Calhoun, Fayette, Gilmer, Lewis, Marion, Mercer, Roane, Webster

Yellow (Increased Community Transmission): Counties will continue with in-person instruction. Health and safety precautions include, at a minimum, face coverings at all times for grades 3 and above.

Yellow counties include: Braxton, Monroe, Pendleton, Raleigh, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur

Green (Minimal Community Transmission): Health and safety precautions include, at a minimum, face coverings in grades 3 and above on school buses and when inside of school facilities.

Green counties include: Logan, McDowell, Randolph, Summers

The COVID-19 Data Review Panel reviewed and verified the data used to inform the WVDE Saturday Education Map to ensure both accuracy and reliability. The panel considered data captured at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, December 10, 2020. As a result, there may be differences between the WVDE map and the DHHR County Alert Map.

The county color announced each Saturday will be in effect until the following Saturday with the exception of a county turning red during the course of the week. Once reviewed, that change may be made immediately to the WVDE map because all in-person instruction would be suspended.

Counties that voluntarily move into remote learning (without being given the orange or red designation by the DHHR or the Data Review Panel) will be identified with red asterisks on the map.

All schools, both public and private, are expected to adhere to the WVDE Saturday Education Map. Winter sports have been suspended until January 11, 2021, by order of the Governor.

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