BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — The Berkeley County Board of Education met for an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon where the only item on the agenda was to discuss the implementation of a universal mask mandate in schools across the county.
The board voted unanimously to make masking in all Berkeley County School buildings and buses a requirement after receiving guidance from the Berkeley-Morgan health officer and the lead nurse coordinator for the school system.
Masks will now be required when community transmission from the previous week is categorized as high or substantial. The board will be following CDC guidelines for those categories. The guideline quantifies 50 cases per 100,000 people as the criteria for the substantial category. In Berkeley County, this translates to 60 cases per the 120,000 residents.
Berkeley-Morgan health officer Dr. Kevin McLaughlin says data is on their side.
“There are studies that have come out that the masking actually has kept transmission within the school systems down and has allowed the kids to stay in school,” Dr. McLaughlin stated during the virtual board meeting.
He went on to stress that kids need to stay in school and that in-person learning should be prioritized.
“After all we learned from the last 18 months, and last year being completely virtual, we really need to have these kids in school for in-person education,” Dr. McLaughlin said.
The Berkeley County Schools website states that required face coverings can be a temporary situation and when the county moves to low or moderate transmission level, the school system will revert back to recommending face coverings, not requiring them.
According to Governor Jim Justice’s latest COVID press conference, 53 of the 55 counties in the Mountain state now have mask mandates.