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Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

No Mask Mandate, As School Officials Meet With Justice

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joins Gov. Jim Justice's COVID-19 briefing in August.

Gov. Jim Justice welcomed state and federal school officials to his COVID-19 briefing Friday. The governor did not announce a requirement for students or teachers to wear masks across the state.

State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the goal in West Virginia, and across the nation, is to keep kids in the classroom, and not a virtual one.

“Let’s get them back in school and make it the best school year for them, they deserve it,” Cardona said.

But the spread of COVID-19 will force students to quarantine on occasion. Capitol High School in Kanawha County went to virtual learning this week after 29 students tested positive. They will be back in session Monday.

There are 20 school outbreaks as of Friday, Justice said.

The governor did not announce a statewide mask mandate in schools. He insists that the best public health measure is to encourage vaccination, without requiring it.

“We want to have school, don’t we?” said Justice. “What will ensure us of having that happen? Vaccination, that's it.”

Burch said schools will continue hosting vaccine clinics, as they did before summer break.

Local school boards can require masks in their counties. Kanawha and Upshur have issued these requirements.

Of West Virginians aged 12 to 17, about 14 percent are fully vaccinated.

Appalachia Health News Reporter, jleffler@wvpublic.org, 502-377-0438, @june_leffler

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