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Dept. of Education Adds Additional Outbreak Guidance

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The West Virginia Department of Education updated their color-coded county map on Saturday, September 26, showing Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Monroe Counties to all be designated as green.

The maps used by the State Board of Education and the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources are much similar than they have been in recent weeks, with only minor differences towards the south-western portion of the state. A green-designation means that there are three or fewer cases of infection per 100,000 or less than 3% positivity rate in each of the counties.

Questions still surround the system used by W.Va. as numerous ‘tweaks’ have been made to the original Harvard model on which it is based. The addition of a fifth color to the scale, as well as the option of using either positivity-percentage or positivity-rate as the determining factor for color-designation remain controversial.

The current system used by West Virginia has been criticized for its constant changes, and failure to accurately report the number of COVID-19 cases. However, W.Va. Governor Jim Justice, State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch and DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch all stand by the adjustments made to the Harvard model.

At a coronavirus media briefing on September 18, Justice explained that the ‘tweaks’ have made the Harvard model more applicable to a rural state, and pointed out that similar models used by the CDC are much more liberal when it comes to color designation. And on Friday, September 25, the W.Va. Department of Education released additional guidelines as to what constitutes an outbreak.

According to their website: “A confirmed outbreak is described as two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases among students/staff from separate households, within a 14-day period in a single classroom or core group. The current Outbreaks in Schools chart is based on information provided by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and is updated as details are made available.”

The green designation comes as particularly good news for Monroe County. Students were finally able to return to in-person learning last week for the first time since mid-March, and their green designation suggests that this will be able to continue for the foreseeable future. County Schools are currently utilizing a split-schedule. Students in ‘Group 1’ will attend in-person classes on Monday and Tuesday, while those in ‘Group 2’ will attend on Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will be reserved for the deep-cleaning of school buildings.

Monroe County Schools will be continuing food distribution this week. Through a post on social-media, county schools announced, “Meal bags can be picked up on Wednesday, September 30 from 11:00 to 1:30 at each school. Parents can indicate their preferred pick-up location on the survey form.”

Forms can be found by visiting Monroe County School’s website at boe.monroe.k12.wv.us. The links to survey forms are also available on Monroe County Schools Facebook page.

Pocahontas and Greenbrier Counties have remained in the green this week. While Greenbrier County has been designated as green since the opening of schools back on Tuesday, September 8, they opted to close Greenbrier West High School for three days last week due to a positive COVID-19 finding. As of Thursday, September 24, the high school has been reopened.

Pocahontas County is designated as green for the second straight week, after previous designations as orange and gold. The West Virginia Department of Education will next update the color-coded county map on Saturday, October 3, at 5 p.m.

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