W.Va. set to pause face-to-face learning in more counties

FILE - In this July 8, 2019, file photo ,West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks at a roundtable on the opioid epidemic at Cabell-Huntington Health Center in Huntington, WVa. Records show Justice's companies owe almost $2 million in delinquent taxes in Virginia. WDBJ-TV reported, Wednesday, July 1, 2019, that companies owned by the Republican governor owe $1.9 million in taxes to several counties in Virginia. Justice lists more than 100 businesses in his most recent financial statement, including coal, timber and agriculture companies. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — More counties in West Virginia are likely to suspend in-person classes a week after reopening schools.

Children returned to classes Tuesday in all but nine of West Virginia’s 55 counties, based on a color-coded map that tracks the severity of the virus’s spread. Counties that were marked red and orange could only hold virtual classes until they turned yellow or green.

Gov. Jim Justice announced on Friday that schools in counties that started the school year in green or yellow — where most activities are allowed with some restrictions, such as mask-wearing — but move into orange will also need to go virtual-only. Previously, such schools could still offer face-to-face instruction unless they turned red.

An increase in coronavirus cases across the state spurred the sudden change in reopening plans.

“We have got to do something now,” Justice said at a press conference. “If we don’t do it now … we’re going to end up with 30 counties in orange. And then attacking this problem is going to be really, really hard.”

The state will update the color-coded map on Saturday nights throughout the school year. The status of counties will determine whether classes, sports and other activities can be held over the week. The map shows the rate of confirmed community-spread coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in each county.

On Friday, 10 counties were marked orange and Monongalia County was in the red, where all athletic and extracurricular events are also cancelled. Orange counties can hold sports practices but not games.

The state announced 157 new cases on Friday as Justice pleaded with residents to wear masks and take precautions more seriously. He has said the state has the highest infection rate in the country. West Virginia also has the nation’s third-oldest population with nearly 20% of its 1.8 million residents over age 65.

“We are the number one most vulnerable state in the country,” Justice said.


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