by KATE EVANS
Public health officials will require face masks in Morgan County Schools next week August 16 to August 20 as a result of the high level of COVID-19 transmission this week (August 6-August 12) .
New cases of COVID-19 this week totaled 22 cases with new cases still coming in, Health Department officials said in their Friday post.
10 =substantial, 20=high
For Morgan County, the number considered as “substantial” cases is 10 or above per 20,000 people. A “high” transmission rate is 20 cases or above, with Morgan County’s population rounded to 20,000.
Morgan County Schools are holding Back-to-School Night orientations next week. Face masks will now be required at those schools per the Health Department. School staff returns to work on Wednesday, August 18 and will also be required to wear face masks. Students return to classes on Tuesday, August 24.
In two different letters posted on Monday, August 9 and Wednesday, August 11, Morgan County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Kevin McLaughlin advised parents and school personnel of all private and public schools in Morgan and Berkeley Counties that mask wearing in schools will be universal if cases hit the substantial level or above.
The Morgan-Berkeley County Health Department will require universal mask use in schools for all individuals for the coming week whenever the cumulative total of new cases for the previous seven days hits substantial or above (50-99 cases per 100,000) on the Friday of the week before.
This is based on the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 prevention and is effective immediately.
Will be posted each Friday
The Morgan County Health Department will post the 7-day rolling number of new COVID-19 cases every Friday starting Friday, August 13. If the number of new cases is 10 or above, students, school personnel and visitors will be required to wear face masks in schools for the coming week, Dr. McLaughlin said. This number will include all confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases for that week.
The CDC classifies COVID-19 community transmission rates based on the running 7-day total of cases per 100,000 people are low (0-9), moderate (10-49), substantial (50-99) and high (100 and above).
COVID-19 cases are up locally and there were two recent deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total county deaths from the virus to 25.
The 7-day trend for COVID-19 cases for each county can be found on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 website.
CDC recommends masks
Dr. McLaughlin noted that the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to fulltime in-school learning with layered prevention strategies in place.
Anyone K-12 should be masked in areas of low vaccination rates as the best course of action, he said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is constantly evolving as is the evidence/knowledge being obtained from it. The decision to require masks during an outbreak is made to ensure the health and safety of all students and to ensure their ability to attend school in person,” Dr. McLaughlin said in his August 11 letter.
McLaughlin encouraged face masks and vaccination as the best tools to use for COVID-19 prevention. Social distancing, covering coughs and sneezes, frequent hand-washing and staying home when sick are also advised.
School board discussion
The Morgan County School Board will discuss and possibly take action on face masks and other COVID-19 mitigation strategies for schools from the Fall 2021 School Recovery and Guidance Document at their Tuesday, August 17 meeting which begins at 6:00 p.m.