Governor Mandates Kids Return to School

Winter Sports Begin March 1

During his press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 30, Governor Jim Justice mandated West Virginia students in elementary and middle school return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, Jan. 19. “This will give teachers and staff time to prepare,” Justice said.

The governor followed his announcement with some statistics. 

“The transmission rate for students under the age of 15 is 0.02 percent,” he said. “The transmission rate for staff is 0.3 percent. 

“We are failing at virtual learning. According to the Department of Education, one-third of students are failing in at least one core class. 

“There has been a 50 percent reduction in Child Protective Services referrals. 

“Kids are suffering and we need to change that.”

Justice also said all teachers and staff over the age of 50 will receive the COVID-19 vaccine over the next two weeks. Once everyone over 50 receives the vaccine, others will receive it. 

Students in grades 9 through 12 will return to in-person instruction as long as the county is not designated “Red” on the Department of Health and Human Resources County Alert System Map. 

“Winter sports will begin on March 1,” Justice said.

Winter sports had been postponed until Jan. 19. 

According to a press release from the West Virginia Department of Education, parents will still have the option to keep their children in virtual learning regardless of the Governor’s mandate.

The release also indicated the Saturday Education Map will no longer be published. Instead, the DHHR map will be used to determine high school in-person learning.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the West Virginia Coronavirus Czar, quoted a study done in Iceland that said students under the age of 15 are 1/2 as likely to contract and spread COVID-19. “That tells us the classrooms are safer than the community,” he said. 

Prior to the governor’s announcement, Hardy County was in the process of returning students to school on Jan. 4. As a result of the announcement, Hardy County students will return on Jan. 19.

Vaccine Distribution

Justice said of the 86,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccine the state has received, as of Wednesday, Dec. 30, only 37,862 have been administered. “That’s not good enough,” he said.

Justice has always maintained that the state has the most vulnerable population because of the aging population and adverse medical conditions. 

Justice reported everyone in the state’s long-term care facilities – nursing homes and assisted living facilities – were vaccinated.

According to Brandon Tooten, community relations manager, the E. A. Hawse Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has vaccinated 41 residents and 44 employees.

Justice further ordered everyone 80 years old and older, living outside long-term care facilities, be vaccinated immediately.

“When we get everybody 80 and older, we’ll start on everybody 70 and older,” he said.

The governor ordered the National Guard to distribute vaccine to counties so that teachers may be vaccinated, as well as those 80 years and older.

In a press release following his announcement, the governor indicated local health departments will be responsible for administering vaccinations to residents 80 years and older.

The Hardy County Heath Department held a vaccination clinic on Sunday, Jan. 3 for Hardy County residents 80 years and older.

COVID Statistics

West Virginia passed the morbid milestone of 1,300 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, Dec. 29. 

As of Dec. 30 in Hardy County, there were 149 active cases, 18 people in the hospital and 7 deaths attributed to COVID-19. 

Everyone is encouraged to wear a mask when in public, maintain a distance of six feet between others and wash hands frequently.

On Nov. 14, Governor Justice mandated masks must be worn indoors in public buildings.