8/20/21 Update on Back to School Guidance.
Caseload has surpassed new cases from last week’s reporting period. At this time, the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department is adjusting our masking recommendation.
- Due to the increasing number of new COVID-19 cases and the growing number of Delta variant cases, the WOCHD recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
This recommendation is in line with current CDC guidance. The health department will monitor cases, disease trends and vaccination status and re-issue new recommendations as needed.
On Thursday, August 5, 2021, the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department held a meeting with key staff from K-12 schools in Ohio County (private & public) as well as the county’s three higher education facilities.
The department provided several recommendations concerning COVID-19 and the return to school this fall. At this time the health department recommends the following:
- The WOCHD highly recommends that anyone 12 years of age and older receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.
- WOCHD recommends not testing vaccinated students (K-12) or staff who are returning to the classroom.
- WOCHD recommends weekly testing all students (K-12) and staff who are not vaccinated prior to returning to the classroom.
- Higher Education may want to consider testing students and staff who are unvaccinated prior to coming to campus.
- Higher Education will have additional testing requirements for students and staff.
- WOCHD also recommends anyone who is symptomatic during school to be tested prior to returning to school.
- WOCHD recommends that students (K-12) return to school without being masked, unless the parent/guardian has made the determination that the student be masked due to a personal or medical reason.
- This covers all students K-12. Students younger than 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated at this time. The WOCHD highly recommend that parents/guardians of children 12-18yrs of age consider vaccination.
- The WOCHD recommends Staff/Teachers/Volunteers/Parents (K-12) who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask while inside all education facilities and outdoors when around other people.
- The WOCHD recommends (University/College) that fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors on campus.
- The WOCHD recommends (University/College) that those not fully vaccinated to wear a mask while inside all educational facilities and outdoors when around other people.
- NOTE: The need to return to masks and maintain daily school activities will be determined by the level of transmission and or cases in the county. This may be through the color level mapping system of WVDHHR or CDC. If cases continue to increase the recommendation on masks may change.
- DHHR & WOCHD maintains the recommendation that as long as schools (K-12 & Higher Education) can operate safely (e.g. enough teachers to operate) schools are encouraged to keep schools open.
- If a closure is necessary schools and health department should discuss and plan so that additional actions are in place to safely re-open.
The health department also reviewed updated quarantine and isolation requirements with school officials as well as options for testing students and staff during the school year.
The start of school this year will be different than last fall or the spring. Schools will start the school year with positive cases and students/staff who may already be in isolation or quarantined due to exposure. All schools should plan for testing, vaccination (higher education and adult staff in K-12) and contact tracing prior to the start of school.
Vaccinations are not required for students and staff. Future requirements concerning vaccinations may occur upon the future FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccination for children under the age of 12yrs has not been announced. Booster vaccination or a Booster Vaccine program for selected populations has not been developed nationally. Virtually all hospitalization and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated.
Vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.