School reopening: Here’s how many cases Upshur County would need to hit each color-coded level

Author’s note: There was a lack of clarity regarding the exact metrics being used to calculate the various county color codes. This is my best interpretation after listening to the governor’s press conference.

On Friday, Gov. Jim Justice unveiled the metric the state will use to color-code counties for school safety purposes. Technically, the state will use a seven-day moving average of new daily cases, normalized to a population of 100,000 people.

If you don’t have a calculator handy, the easiest way to think of it is, “How many new cases has my county had in the past seven days?”

In Upshur County, here are the levels:

  • Green: 0-13 new cases in the last seven days
  • Yellow: 14-27 new cases in the last seven days
  • Orange: 28-41 new cases in the last seven days
  • Red: 42+ new cases in the last seven days

In other words, Upshur County (with a population of roughly 25,000) would need to have more new cases in a single week than we’ve had in the last six months to be in the red.

There also are a few caveats: Institutional outbreaks (nursing homes, prisons, etc) only count as one case, no matter how many residents test positive. Staff who work at an institution with an outbreak only count as half a case.

What do the levels mean in practical terms?

  • Green: School and athletics can proceed
  • Yellow: School and athletics can proceed
  • Orange: School and athletic practices can proceed, but no sports competitions
  • Red: No in-person school and no athletics

According to Justice, only Logan County currently rates as red, with Mingo and Grant orange. The rest of the state is yellow or green.

Another important note: Any student can opt out of in-person school entirely. Every county is required to provide full virtual learning for those who would rather not physically attend class, regardless of the color code.

Outside of the red zone, each county has considerable flexibility in how they operate. Upshur County has opted to start the year with students going to class two days a week, as described in this story. The board of education will re-evaluate after nine weeks.

School in West Virginia is set to open on Sept. 8.

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