The Virginia Department of Health has issued new guidance advising public schools in the Commonwealth to widely wear masks inside elementary schools.
The Virginia Department of Health has issued new guidance advising schools across the Commonwealth to mandate widespread wearing of masks inside elementary schools, among other health safety protocols.
The new guidelines come as the state health commissioner’s public health order is due to expire on July 25. When that order expires, schools will be allowed to set their own health policies.
The Department of Health recommends, but does not require, all students, teachers, and staff to wear masks indoors — regardless of their individual vaccination status — until children under the age of 12 have received their shots. are, and enough time has passed for them to be fully vaccinated.
They also advise middle and high schools to adopt policies that require unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors.
The Department of Health notes that while it is common for schools to keep vaccination records, they should work with their counselor to determine whether students and staff have been vaccinated.
“Virginia has followed the science during this pandemic and that’s what we continue to do,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement. “This guidance takes into account recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and will provide the necessary flexibility for school divisions while ensuring a safe, healthy and world-class learning environment for Virginia students.”
The guidance emphasizes classroom-first promotion for health protection in schools – while sports and school programs are important, if community transmission becomes an issue, they should take a back seat to classroom learning, as it notes. that those activities are a common source of school transmission.
The Department of Health warned that all schools should be prepared to adjust mask policies as their local health departments advise.
“Schools hold a special place in the lives of our communities, and we need to do everything possible to keep everyone in them safe. This guidance is aimed at providing resilience to the localities along with the safety of students, teachers and staff,” said state health commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a statement. “We continue to urge eligible Virginians to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”
Public school systems in Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun and SpotSylvania counties and the city of Alexandria reported that they are reviewing current guidelines and will announce their plans soon.
A spokeswoman for SpotSylvania County Public Schools said the county school board will discuss the guidance at its next meeting on July 26.
According to a spokesperson, Loudoun County public schools will have a statement to the community on masking recommendations “in the near future.”
Christy King contributed to this report.