Sept. 18 -- FRIDAY MAP UPDATE
Friday, Gov. Justice provided a look at West Virginia’s latest mid-week map update.
The map is updated live on the DHHR’s COVID-19 Dashboard (Click "County Alert System" tab) throughout the week for informational purposes and to provide an indication of how each county is trending ahead of each Saturday at 5 p.m.; the time when each county is assigned its official color designation for the next week, which determines the level of scholastic, athletic and extracurricular activities permitted in each county for that particular week.
As of Friday morning, Fayette, Mingo, and Putnam counties were each elevated to red status. This triggers an immediate suspension of all in-person instruction and all school-related activities.
In contrast, Monongalia County dropped out of red status and back into orange status.
Four counties are currently red: Fayette, Kanawha, Mingo, and Putnam counties.
Two counties are currently orange: Boone and Monongalia counties.
Eight counties are currently gold: Cabell, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Ohio, Pocahontas, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.
Twenty-four counties are currently yellow. Seventeen counties are currently green.
Sept. 15 -- 5th color added to color-coded map
CHARLESTON, WV – During his latest briefing with state health and education experts, Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday the addition of a new color – gold – to the School Alert System map; which determines the level of scholastic, athletic, and extracurricular activities permitted in each county for each particular week.
Counties in gold have 10.0–14.9 cases of COVID-19 infection per 100,000 people. Up until now, counties with these numbers were categorized as orange. However, in an emergency meeting that lasted into the evening Monday, Gov. Justice and state health experts determined that the orange category was too broad.
“Our original plan was put together with a considerable amount of thought,” said Gov. Justice, noting that White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx praised the map as “remarkable” during her recent trip to West Virginia, highlighting the plan as a leading practice nationwide for all states to emulate.
“But just because we had a good plan doesn’t mean we can’t make it better,” Gov. Justice added.
“We’ve got 67,000 kids that aren’t in school and we’ve got 15,000 of those kids that are special needs kids,” Gov. Justice said. “If we can get some of those kids back in school safely, should we not try to do just that? Should we not continue to try to change and adapt and make our system even better? Well I think so. And last night, in an emergency meeting we had with all the experts from several different fields, we have now come upon a system that is lightly tweaked, but is absolutely better.”
During Monday’s emergency meeting, Gov. Justice and state health experts also concluded that counties should be evaluated on two metrics when their color designation is being determined.
Up until now, each county’s color was based solely on that county’s infection rate; the number of people per 100,000 that had tested positive for the virus.
“Now what does that do? We are having people who make decisions saying, ‘We don’t want to test, because the more we test, the more we hurt ourselves,’” Gov. Justice said. “That path gives us bad medical information and it doesn’t help protect you,” Gov. Justice continued. “We want to encourage people to go get tested so we have more information and so we know where this virus is located.”
As a result, the Governor announced that, in addition to infection rate, counties will also be evaluated on their positivity rate, with factors negative tests into the equation.
Going forward, during each official Saturday map update, counties will be judged on both their infection rate and their positivity rate. The county’s more favorable metric will be used to determine their color designation for the following week.
The updated thresholds are as follows:
GREEN: 3 and fewer cases per 100,000 OR 3% or less positivity rate
YELLOW: 3.1 – 9.9 cases per 100,000 OR 4% or less positivity rate
GOLD: 10 – 14.9 cases per 100,000 OR 5% or less positivity rate
ORANGE: 15 – 24.9 cases per 100,000
RED: 25+ cases per 100,000
In the gold category, counties will be able to move to an in-person instructional model with restrictions including face coverings at all times for grades 3-12. Extracurricular activities are permitted and competitions may occur against schools within the same county as well as schools in other gold counties. Additionally, modifications to spectator requirements at extracurricular activities have been made.
Updated protocols for education, athletic, and extracurricular activities on the new color scale are outlined on the Department of Education’s website.
As a part of this reset, students from several counties that were deemed orange in the most recent School Alert System map update on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, are now categorized as gold in the new scale. These new designations are effective immediately.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, a total of 23 counties are green, while 24 counties are yellow.
Five counties are now gold: Boone, Fayette, Logan, Mingo, and Putnam counties.
Two counties are now orange: Kanawha and Monroe counties.
One county is now red: Monongalia County.
New School Alert System map (effective Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020)
Any county categorized as gold may, at the discretion of their local boards of education, return to in-person instruction tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. Alternatively, these county boards of education can choose to wait and make decisions based on the next School Alert System map update this coming Saturday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m.
Counties that remain orange are still prohibited from conducting in-person instruction. Athletic and extracurricular activities are still limited to conditioning only.
Subsequent updates of the official School Alert System map will continue on a weekly basis at 5 p.m. each Saturday.
All schools, both public and private, are expected to adhere to the WVDE School Alert System map system to guide in-person instruction and extracurricular activities.
“If it takes additional measures to keep our people safe, we’re here to do them,” Gov. Justice said. “But, I strongly believe that what we needed to do was tweak our color-code system and add another bracket to be able to give a lot of our kids the opportunity to get back in school.
“First and foremost, we’ve got to be safe,” Gov. Justice continued. “But, as you go through life with a difficult problem, you’ve got to be willing to pivot and change and adapt, and make those changes for the betterment of all.”
In conjunction with the unveiling of the new color-coding system, Gov. Justice also announced Monday that he has signed an executive order, prohibiting travel sports teams from participating in practices, games, or other competitions within counties designated as gold, orange, or red in the County Alert System. This restriction does not apply to teams and leagues that play in defined, relatively small geographic areas, such as within a single county or a few counties in the state of West Virginia.
Additionally, the order decreases the social gathering limit for outdoor activity gatherings in gold, orange, or red counties from 25 people to 10 people.
Aug. 21 -- UPDATED 'COUNTY ALERT SYSTEM' FOR SCHOOL STATUS & NURSING HOME VISITATION
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced his county-by-county color-coding system, recently put in place to communicate the safety status of schools, is being expanded to include the safety status of nursing homes and has been updated with an enhancement to its metric calculation for low-population counties.
The West Virginia COVID-19 Dashboard has been updated to include a live, interactive map that reflects the color status of each county in real time. The map will now be called the County Alert System and will be used for multiple purposes.
Beyond reflecting how schools in each county will operate, nursing homes across the state will begin using the same green-yellow-orange-red color scale to notify the public about the status of visitation at such facilities within each county.
An additional announcement will be made next week regarding an implementation schedule.
For both schools and nursing homes, Gov. Justice and health experts also announced an enhancement to the metric calculation that determines each county’s color. To account for the possibility of outliers in regions with smaller populations, the metric for counties with fewer than 16,000 residents will be based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a 14-day rolling average. Meanwhile, the metric for counties with more than 16,000 residents will still be based on the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average.
“This method will allow us to make decisions faster and will be much fairer for our small counties,” West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh said.
SCHOOL RE-ENTRY MASK PROTOCOL UPDATE
Also Friday, Gov. Justice announced that, at his direction and with the approval of state medical experts, the Department of Education has modified its School Re-Entry Protocol.
The new protocol requires face coverings for students in grades 3 and above in various settings:
GREEN: Require face coverings for grades 3 and above on buses and in congregant settings (outside of core groups) where social distancing cannot be maintained.
YELLOW: Require face coverings for grades 3-5 on buses and in congregant settings (outside of core groups) where social distancing cannot be maintained. Require face coverings for grades 6 and above at all times.
ORANGE: Require face coverings for grades 3 and above at all times.
RED: N/a (In-person instruction will be canceled if a county reaches red status).
These requirements are in addition to previously announced protocols for in-person instruction.
SCHOOL RE-ENTRY HOTLINE ANNOUNCED
State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch announced Friday that the West Virginia Department of Education has launched a School Re-entry Hotline, specifically dedicated for answering any parent, educator, or citizen’s questions or concerns related to the WVDE’s plan for returning to school.
The School Re-entry Hotline is available at 304-957-1234.
AUG. 17 -- ADJUSTMENTS TO WEST VIRGINIA SCHOOL RE-ENTRY METRICS AND PROTOCOLS
During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that, after consulting with state medical experts over the weekend, the determination has been made to modify the School Re-entry Metric – the color-coded map system that will determine the level of openness for each Pre-K-12 school in West Virginia – originally announced on Friday.
“We listened to the experts and we came up with something that was revolutionary; something that no one in the nation has come up with: our color coding system,” Gov. Justice said. “We also said, along the way, we would listen and be fluid. We’ve stayed in contact and we decided that we needed to pivot just a little bit.”
The metric will still be based on each county’s number of new daily cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average. Based on that figure, each county will still be assigned one of four colors – green, yellow, orange, or red – which is meant to represent the severity of the rate of community spread.
However, Gov. Justice announced Monday that several of the thresholds that determine each county’s color have been changed.
The updated thresholds are:
GREEN: 3 and fewer cases per 100,000
YELLOW: 3.1 – 9.9 cases per 100,000
ORANGE: 10 – 24.9 cases per 100,000
RED: 25+ cases per 100,000
*New daily cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average
The color-coded map, tracking each county’s performance in the metric and associated color status, has been updated to reflect these changes.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW NEW COLOR-CODED MAP, which is also shown above.
In the event of an outbreak within a contained location, such as a correctional facility, nursing home, etc., all positive inmates/residents will still count as one positive incidence toward the metric since they will remain within a confined environment and unable to contribute to community spread. However, the number of positive staff members will now each count as one full positive incidence toward the school metric, since these individuals would be potentially able to contribute to community spread outside of the facility.
“I think this is where we have really become innovative,” said West Virginia Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, comparing West Virginia’s school metric to the Harvard Global Health Institute's COVID Risk Level Model, which served as the original inspiration for the school metric.
“The Harvard model counts people that are both spreading in the community and spreading in these congregate settings, like nursing homes and prisons, as equal,” Dr. Marsh continued. “We have basically decided that we’re really trying to focus on just the community spread.
“That is actually, to me, a real innovation from the Harvard model, particularly when it comes to opening schools and and looking at other community-based activities.”
Unless amended above, all other parts of the original plan announced Friday remain unchanged. [Story follows below]
Also Monday, the West Virginia Department of Education posted a summary of each county’s re-entry plan on the WVDE website.
TYLER COUNTY -- Tyler County Schools re-entry information is available as downloadable PDFs on their homepage. These PDFs are: countywide plan; child nutrition; transportation; Tyler Consolidated Middle/High School; Sistersville Elementary, and Arthur I. Boreman Elementary.
WETZEL COUNTY's link takes you to a 3-page downloadable PDF entitled Wetzel County Schools -- Explanations of In-person Learning, Distance Learning, Virtual School, and Homeschooling.
AUG. 14 -- 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, and the West Virginia Department of Education – 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.
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.
For comparison's sake, here is the original color-coded map.