“We hope communities use the tool to understand the data in their locality and also in surrounding counties or localities to help understand the potential risk of introductions and or subsequent transmission in other settings, like school,” Forlano said.
In the Richmond area, only Hanover County brought students back into the classroom on the first day of school. Chesterfield County is returning some K-12 special education students back to in-person instruction on Tuesday, while Henrico County is weighing whether to move to a hybrid model next month. The city of Richmond is opening some school buildings for emergency child care.
VDH recommends that any decisions about in-person instruction or school closures be handled at the local level. The Department of Health has recommended for school systems to prioritize bringing back the highest-need and youngest elementary school students first.
“That guidance has and continues to prioritize the needs of students who have been most impacted by school building closures and for whom in-person instruction is most beneficial,” said Holly Coy, the Virginia Department of Education’s assistant superintendent for policy, equity and communications. “That includes our students with disabilities, English learners, and young students in preschool through third grade.”
The schools-related webpage will be used as is until Oct. 14. At that point, VDH might change its thresholds to more closely match the CDC’s.