Virginia governor defending state’s guidelines for return to classroom
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is defending the state’s new guidelines for the upcoming school year. New guidelines offer suggestions on in-person learning but leave final decisions regarding masks and social distancing to local schools and health departments.
“One thing that we learned during COVID-19 is that one size doesn’t fit all. There are different vaccination rates, different rates of individuals ending up at the hospital across Virginia,” Northam said.
Thursday, Northam toured VCU’s College of Health Professions on Leigh Street. He got a first-hand look at how medical students and others train to care for COVID-19 patients.
The governor says he’s not concerned about the potential patchwork of local policies regarding masks in schools.
“We are empowering the different localities across Virginia, i.e. the school districts, to follow our guidelines and also to follow the data,” Northam said.
Virginia guidance strongly recommends school divisions practice these measures for the 2021-2022 school year:
- Elementary schools should require all students, teachers and staff to wear masks indoors until vaccines are available to children who are younger than 12 years old
- Middle and high school students who are not fully vaccinated should wear masks indoors.
- Schools should establish how to confirm students and staff have been vaccinated.
- Consider universal masking for reasons outlined by the CDC.
- All schools should adjust local mask policies as local public health conditions evolve during the year.
Richmond Public Schools will require masks for all teachers and students, regardless of vaccination status. In Chesterfield County, a petition is circulating among parents who don’t want to send their child to school with a mask.
“We know that masks work, and so for individuals who haven’t been vaccinated, we would strongly recommend them to use a mask and that includes our children,” said Northam.
In the City of Richmond, vaccine rates are showing slow growth. Forty-seven percent of the total population has at least one dose. It’s 58% in Henrico County and 55% in Chesterfield County.
“The faster we can get people to get vaccinated, the sooner we can decrease the number of variants and put this behind us,” said Northam.
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