Masks in schools? Decisions will be made locally
CHARLESTON – Educators across the state are looking forward to the safe reopening of schools this month. For some counties, this includes wearing masks indoors and vaccinations.
There is no statewide mask mandate, despite an increase in COVID-19 cases, and state officials at an August 4 news conference said decisions about wearing masks in classrooms will be decided at the local level. Governor Jim Justice is encouraging students over the age of 12 to get vaccinated before returning to school.
State schools Superintendent Clayton Burch emphasized the continuation of contract tracing and that mask decisions will be local. “If you feel you need it, wear a mask,” he said. “But really, the local superintendents will be looking at that individually for their counties.” Burch shared material from the “School Recovery and Guidance” materials, which was released today. The emphasis during the press conference was on the importance of everyone being vaccinated, with officials noting just 56.7 percent of West Virginia’s population is vaccinated. State statistics show younger age groups have the lowest vaccination rates.
WVEA supports masking and other mitigation strategies at schools, including vaccination, appropriate distancing, regular handwashing, adequate ventilation and robust cleaning/sanitation. “We have consistently said, there is no substitute for in-person learning in a safe environment. The CDC’s latest guidance provides an important roadmap for reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools,” said WVEA President Dale Lee. “As the delta variant spreads and infections are increasing in younger people, it is particularly important that we all work together and we all do our part. Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated should get their COVID-19 vaccination. This is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and each other, and especially to protect those who cannot yet be vaccinated, including children under 12.”