The West Virginia Department of Education will begin identifying any public school in the state with a reported COVID-19 outbreak on its website, Gov. Jim Justice announced at his tri-weekly COVID-19 news briefing Friday.
An outbreak at a school is considered to be any two or more COVID-19 cases that, through contact tracing, are believed to be related, Justice said.
The website lists the name of the school, how many cases are linked to the outbreak and if the school has implemented virtual learning because of it. Since the reports are for outbreaks only, there could be more COVID-19 cases at a school or facility that are not part of the outbreak but could contribute to school closures, according to state schools Superintendent Clayton Burch.
As of Friday afternoon, eight schools in Putnam, Kanawha, Raleigh, Monongalia, Grant and Marshall counties were reporting outbreaks, all of which included less than five confirmed positives, according to the website.
Burch said remote learning caused by a COVID-19 outbreak could affect entire schools or isolated classrooms, depending on the situation. Reporting outbreaks, Burch said, is a starting point for tracking the virus within school walls. In the future, he said, he hopes to have a system to track all ongoing cases in schools, whether related to an outbreak or not.
The information for the website is collected from county boards of education, which work with county health departments to identify cases tied to schools and react accordingly. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, along with the Department of Education, will collect these reports daily from the county level and post the relevant information online.
- As of 10 a.m. Friday, West Virginia reported 14,953 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 330 COVID-19 related deaths, according to the DHHR dashboard. Of those positive cases, 3,655 were active.
- The West Virginia National Guard has organized 15 more teams to assist with COVID-19 testing in schools, nursing homes, prisons and communities across the state, Justice reported. He said the additional support will lead to additional testing, which will help health officials identify COVID-19 positives and stop further transmission of the virus.
Justice reported that West Virginia stepped up its previously lacking response to the 2020 census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, West Virginia’s response rate was 99.9% as of Thursday, the best in the nation.