Virginia health officials announce new COVID-19 guidance for schools

Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (WDVM) — Virginia health and school officials announced new mask and COVID-19 prevention recommendations for the upcoming school year.

The new recommendations are as follows:

  • Elementary schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers, and staff wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, until vaccination is available for children under 12 years old and there has been sufficient time to allow for children younger than 12 years old to be fully vaccinated. 
  • At a minimum, middle and high schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors. While school divisions regularly confirm school-required immunization records of their students, they should consult with their counsel in determining if and how to confirm student and staff COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • All schools may want to consider universal masking for specific reasons as outlined in certain circumstances by the CDC
  • All schools should be prepared to adjust local mask policies as local public health conditions evolve throughout the year. 

The decision comes from young students not being able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine until they are 12 years old, which could possibly put teachers and other school faculty at risk.

Virginia officials tried to stay away one-size-fits all approach by allowing each school district to consider the set of recommendations, but ultimately decide on what’s best for the community conditions within the locality. Dr. Laurie Forlano from the Virginia Department of Health is optimistic that the guidance will help students, families and faculty members feel confident in returning to school.

“I think this guidance really helps, hopefully helps, localities think through these tough decisions. But the good news is that we have a lot of simple measures that we can put into place to help protect each other from COVID-19, vaccine is number one, distancing, that’s another strategy, we definitely don’t want that to be a barrier to getting kids back into schools,” said Forlano.

The statewide school mask mandate officially expires on Sunday, but individual school districts will need time to decide what’s best for their community.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam continues to encourage all Virginians of age to be vaccinated.

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