Liz McCormick Published

More Than Two Dozen W.Va. County Schools Systems Mask Up

Back to school concept with pencils, crayons in shopping cart with apple with face mask

Gov. Jim Justice announced in a press conference Friday that 30 of the state’s 55 county school systems are now requiring masking of students, faculty and staff regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 375 individual positive cases among 58 schools in the state, according to the West Virginia Department of Education’s website. Calhoun County Middle High School has the most concentrated amount of those cases with 30 outbreaks.

Despite the numbers, Justice was quick to say he will not issue a statewide masking mandate for schools.

“Because one size does not fit all in this,” Justice said. “And that’s why we’re depending upon that local control to help us with what they think is the very best for their schools and their communities.”

Earlier this week, three mothers from Cabell County filed a lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court against the governor and other state leaders for not requiring a statewide mask mandate in schools among other protections.

The lawsuit alleges that some schools are also contradicting local medical advice, and it argues online schooling is “functionally unavailable” in Cabell County.

In higher education news, West Virginia University’s faculty senate voted overwhelmingly this week to require students and staff to get the Pfizer vaccine now that it’s received full approval from the FDA.

WVU leaders, however, didn’t say whether they would change the current guidelines on their campuses.

“We always appreciate and consider input from our campus community,”a WVU spokesperson said in a statement. “Ultimately it is an administrative decision made in consultation with our Board of Governors … We continue to monitor conditions and strongly encourage students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated and wear masks where required.”

The statement highlighted that vaccinations among students has increased and sits at nearly 76 percent.

**Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said 375 individual cases of COVID-19 were defined as outbreak cases. This was incorrect. According to the WVDE, there were 58 outbreak cases and 375 individual cases of COVID-19. Outbreak cases are defined as “multiple cases comprising at least 10% of students, teachers, or staff, within a specified core group (e.g. classroom, extracurricular activity, sports team). Or, at least three cases within a specified core group.”