More West Virginia counties could see school closures

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Some West Virginia counties are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, which could force more school districts to halt in-person classes.

As of Monday, one county has entered into the red, which is Gov. Jim Justice’s worst designation for COVID-19 cases in the state’s color-coded designation system. Another six counties are in the orange, which is the second worst. This is an increase from Saturday, when no counties were in the red and four were in the orange.

Mingo County, which is the only county in the red, has halted in-person classes this week, going fully remote. Some schools in the orange counties have gone to remote learning, and the rest will be forced to if the counties don’t move back a designation into the gold.

The counties in the orange are Doddridge, Harrison, Barbour, Upshur, Randolph and Berkeley. Each of these counties, except for Berkeley, border one another. During a news conference Monday, Justice said the state is working to find out why cases are spreading in the area and encouraged residents to take advantage of free testing so those who have COVID-19 can be isolated to help stop the spread of the virus.

“We have got to find out why they are spreading, and the answer is test and find the people that are spreading this and don’t even know they’re doing it,” Justice said. “That’s the answer. So in all these counties … get tested. Take advantage of this free testing.”

As of Monday, West Virginia schools have 21 active COVID-19 outbreaks and 62 confirmed cases.

A county enters the red designation if it has more than 25 new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 people and the orange if it has between 15 and 24.9 new cases per day per 100,000 people. Counties that enter into the red must halt in-person instruction immediately, and counties that enter the orange must halt in-person instruction if they do not move to a lower designation when the Saturday metric map is released. The numbers for smaller counties are determined by the average over a 14-day period and numbers for larger counties are determined by an average over a seven-day period.

Counties that enter into the gold, yellow or green can operate in-person instruction with some COVID-19-related restrictions. Counties in the gold have the harshest restrictions, followed by yellow and then green.

During Monday’s news conference, Justice also commented on the progression of the federal stimulus package. He said he expects an eventual package but accused Washington politicians of acting like “children in a sandbox” by playing politics close to an election rather than providing relief to the people who still are struggling from the pandemic.

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