(The Center Square) – The COVID-19 pandemic is headed in the right direction in several West Virginia counties for public school reopenings, with all of the counties moving out of the red designation and only two counties remaining in the orange designation, according to the state's most-recent numbers.
Large counties with a red or orange designation on the Saturday before any given school week cannot hold any in-person classes that week, while smaller counties are measured on a 14-day period. As counties progressively improve to gold, they can reopen with certain restrictions. The restrictions get progressively loosened when the schools enter into the yellow and green designations.
As of Monday, only Kanawha and Barber counties remain in the orange, and only six counties are designated as gold, which is an improvement from previous weeks. A county is in the red if it has more than 25 new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 people, and a county is in the orange if it has between 15 and 24.9 new cases per day per 100,000 people.
During a news conference Monday, Gov. Jim Justice said he has bolstered free testing opportunities in Kanawha County to get better control of the pandemic in the region, and he will do the same in Barber County, which has just moved into the orange.
Kanawha County has yet to move into the yellow designation at any point during the school year, which means its students have not yet had in-person classes. Justice said he wants those students to go back to school, but he wants to first make sure they can go back safely. To get a better read on the situation, he said the county cannot just test people who are showing symptoms and people who are at risk. Rather, he wants everyone to take advantage of the free testing initiatives.
“We want to be super safe,” Justice said.
There are 17 active COVID-19 outbreaks in West Virginia public schools and 52 confirmed cases, according to the West Virginia Department of Education. Justice said whenever the state moves forward with reopening schools, businesses or anything else, there will be new cases at first, but that the state is working to control the situation.
A county enters the gold if it has between 10 and 14.9 new cases per day per 100,000 people or a positivity rate less than 5%, the yellow when it has between 3.1 and 9.9 cases per day per 100,000 people or a positivity rate less than 4% and the green when it has three or fewer cases per day per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of 3% or less.