COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice announces West Virginia School Re-entry Metrics and Protocols

8/14/2020

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CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials today for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.

SCHOOL RE-ENTRY METRICS AND PROTOCOLS
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice joined State education and health leaders to unveil the new metric and color code system that will determine how in-person instruction, athletics, and other extracurricular activities are conducted at West Virginia’s pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, to ensure the safety of students, teachers, service personnel, and the community as a whole.

“There's no state that we know of that has a rating system that is similar to what we're going to propose to do,” Gov. Justice said. “We've been working on this, night and day, for a long long time, with all the experts that we could gather: people from West Virginia, out-of-state, and around the world, our medical experts, the education community, our teachers and counties, and many more.”

The School Re-entry Metrics and Protocols – developed by Gov. Justice, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), and the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) – provide a consistent tool that will assess community transmission. The color-coded system is driven by data and science to monitor the level of COVID-19 in each county.

The system will be based on each county’s number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average. This figure will be calculated and updated by the DHHR.

“The new daily cases are then population-adjusted per 100,000 so small counties and big counties can be compared equally,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, state Coronavirus Czar, who also went on to discuss the use of new daily cases as the key data point in the metric. “The idea behind this is we actually do this at a metric that can change on a daily basis, which then reflects the status of the county. If we wait for the number of active cases to be cleared, that would generally be a minimum of 14 days to see any change and this model changes things much more rapidly and does it on a population-adjusted basis.

“I believe this is a very safe and innovative approach to make sure that we are trying to balance the need to get our students back in class while also protecting them, as well as our teachers, service personnel, and the whole community,” Dr. Marsh continued.

Based on that figure, each county will be assigned one of four colors – green, yellow, orange, or red – which is meant to represent the severity of the rate of community spread.

An online map, tracking each county’s performance in the metric and associated color status, is published on the West Virginia COVID-19 dashboard (under the "Overview" tab, select "Click here to view incidence rate").

 

The map will be updated daily for informational purposes. However, each county’s officially designated status will be determined on a weekly basis. At approximately 9 p.m. each Saturday, each county will receive an official color status that will remain in place through the following Saturday evening.

Once the spread of COVID-19 reaches identified levels, counties must respond with specific mitigation actions to prevent further spread.

 

Click here to view mitigation actions by color

All counties identified as green and yellow on the Saturday prior to the scheduled first day of school, may begin in-person instruction and will be permitted to do so as long as levels remain steady.

Counties with orange or red levels will not be permitted to begin in-person instruction until yellow or green levels are reached on a seven-day rolling basis. Schools in orange or red counties will be full remote learning until yellow or green levels are achieved.

After opening, if a county elevates to orange in its official Saturday status, it may continue to operate in-person instruction under the orange school re-entry protocols. Athletics and extracurricular activities would be limited to controlled practices/activities only and no competitions would be permitted. However, if a county were to reach orange levels in the middle of the week, athletics and extracurricular activities would be permitted to continue until the county reaches orange levels in its official Saturday status.

If a county elevates to red at any time, regardless of the day of the week, all in-person instruction, athletics, and extracurricular activities will be halted the next regularly scheduled school day, and will not resume until the county’s levels return to green or yellow. In this scenario, schools in red counties will be full remote learning until yellow or green levels are achieved.

All of West Virginia’s private and Christian schools will be subject to the same color scale as public schools.

In the event of an outbreak within a contained location, such as a correctional facility, nursing home, etc., the outbreak would count as one positive incidence of COVID-19 among inmates/residents, while the number of positive staff members will be counted at 50 percent before being added to the total case number that will be used in determining each county’s metric.

These School Re-entry Metrics and Protocols will be in effect so long as the state, as a whole, remains below a 5 percent positivity rate based on a rolling, seven-day average.

 

Click event images to view photo album​

The School Re-entry Metrics and Protocol applies to students who select the in-person or hybrid options as their preferred model of instruction.

Each county is also offering full virtual instruction. Parents and guardians will have the flexibility to select their preferred instruction model as part of the Governor's previously announced plan to reopen all Pre-K-12 schools.

“We're going to see blended instruction, we're going to see in-person, five-day instruction, and we're going to see virtual instruction. That was the goal from day one: to make sure that parents had options,” State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch said. “I just want to thank Governor Justice for the leadership he's shown in developing the plan. All of the collaboration that's gone into this process has been wonderful.”

The target date for statewide school re-entry currently remains Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. A final decision on whether to go through with that start date will be made by no later than Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.

CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES UPDATE
Today, Gov. Justice announced that enhanced testing at South Central Regional Jail was completed on-schedule Wednesday.

More than 460 inmates and 80 staff were tested, with no new positive cases being identified since the Governor's previous update at Wednesday's press briefing.

The facility remains on lockdown to eliminate movement within the jail.

There are also no new inmate cases at the Southern Regional Jail. The West Virginia National Guard sanitized the medical unit at SRJ on Thursday. The number of active cases among staff at the facility remains at eight, with two additional recoveries.

WEST VIRGINIA VETERANS NURSING FACILITY UPDATE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that all 84 residents at the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Facility tested negative for COVID-19 the Governor ordered the facility to be retested earlier this week.

To-date, 183 staff members tested negative, while nine additional staff tests remain pending.

“I want to thank Administrator Sherri Reed and her staff,” Gov. Justice said. “They have have done an outstanding job.”

 

ACTIVE CHURCH OUTBREAKS REMAIN IN THREE COUNTIES
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice announced that church-related outbreaks remain active in three counties across West Virginia: Cabell, Taylor, and Wood counties. These outbreaks account for about 42 total cases combined.​

 

FREE COVID-19 TESTING
Gov. Justice also updated the schedule of upcoming free community COVID-19 testing events taking place over the next several weeks at various dates and times in multiple counties across the state.

The effort is part of a plan to provide free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.

Testing details listed below in chronological order:

Brooke County
Friday, August 14 & Saturday, August 15

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Bethany College
Hummel Field House: 6268 Main Street, Bethany, WV

Lewis County
Friday, August 14
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday, August 15
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Lewis County High School: 205 Minute Man Drive, Weston, WV

Lincoln County
Wednesday, August 19
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Harts PK-8: 1246 McClellan Highway, Harts, WV 

Hancock County 
Friday, August 21
1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Weir High School: 100 Red Rider Road, Weirton, WV 
Saturday, August 22
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Weir High School: 100 Red Rider Road, Weirton, WV 

Boone County
Tuesday, August 25
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Madison Civic Center: 261 Washington Avenue, Madison, WV

Lincoln County
Wednesday, August 26
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Alum Creek Church of Christ: 2368 Childress Road, Alum Creek, WV 

Webster County
Saturday, August 29

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Webster County High School: 1 Highlander Drive, Cowen, WV 

Nicholas County
Thursday, September 17

12:00 PM – 8:00 PM 
Nazarene Camp: 6461 Webster Road, Summersville, WV 

 

SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS: OVER $8.3 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on small businesses that have applied for funding through the Governor’s West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program, reporting that over 2,000 applications have been submitted, with more than $8.3 million being awarded to date.

The initiative is providing $150 million of West Virginia’s CARES Act funding to qualifying businesses across the state. Any West Virginia-based small business, in existence on March 1, 2020, with 1-35 employees, is able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding.

Businesses planning to apply must first be registered as a vendor with the State to be eligible. Guidelines for the grants and instructions on how to apply are available at Grants.wv.gov.

The application will remain open until Sept. 30, 2020.

 

CITIES/COUNTIES GRANT FUNDING: $77.6 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that more than $77.6 million has now been awarded all across the state.

A new web portal is now available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding, at grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.

Each of the recipients of CARES Act funding, along with grant amounts, are now available to view through the COVID-19 transparency web portal provided by West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.

 

WEST VIRGINIA STRONG SUMMER FOOD ASSISTANCE MAP
Also, Gov. Justice reminded West Virginians that an interactive free-feeding location map, designed to help connect citizens in need to food resources across the state, is available online.

Click here to view the map

More than 696 free-feeding locations have now been made available through a multi-agency effort between the West Virginia National Guard, the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD), and the United Way.

If food distribution locations aren't available in some communities, individuals are encouraged to call 211 for further assistance.

 

WEST VIRGINIANS URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN CENSUS
Once more today, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.

Every West Virginian who does not respond to the Census represents a loss of $20,000 in federal funds over the next 10 years for the state and its local communities. The funds can go toward things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.

Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.

 


Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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Banner Images Courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Commerce

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