Students won’t return to school if Virginia can’t stay in Phase 3, Northam says after uptick in COVID-19 cases

Updated: Jul. 10, 2020 at 5:10 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After an uptick in COVID-19 cases around the state, Gov. Ralph Northam said students won’t move forward with returning back to school in person if Virginia isn’t able to stay in Phase Three.

Northam said that so far, Virginia has been able to avoid the same type of spike in COVID-19 cases that other states are experiencing, but there a concerning increase is starting to be seen, particularly in the Hampton Roads areas.

According to NBC affiliate WAVY, the daily cases in that region have more than tripled in the last two weeks, with more than 220 new cases every day. The percent positivity rate of tests in Norfolk also at more than 16 percent, compared to the 6 percent statewide.

Northam said his team will continue to monitor the data and make sure health guidelines are being followed, otherwise, he said new restrictions could be coming to the state reopening guidelines.

“We will continue watching the data over the coming days to make sure public health guidelines are being followed—and I won’t hesitate to impose restrictions if needed,” Northam said on Facebook.

So far, Virginia has avoided the same spike in #COVID19 cases that other states are experiencing, but we are starting to...

Posted by Governor of Virginia on Friday, July 10, 2020

When asked about the state’s school reopening plan in regards to recent comments from President Donald Trump, who is demanding schools across the country to have students back inside the classroom, Northam said it must be done safely.

“If we’re going to get our kids back in school, we need to do it safely. It’s not only the children in schools, it’s the teachers and staff that could contract this, and the point I would make is if our teachers and staff can’t stay healthy and contract the virus, then all is moot.

Northam also said if Virginia can’t stay in Phase Three, students won’t be able to return to class either.

“I want as much as anybody to get our kids back in school, but if our numbers don’t stay where they are, if we aren’t able to stay in Phase Three, then we’re not going to be able to move forward with that,” Northam said.

On Thursday, a group of Richmond Public School teachers wrote a letter to district leadership saying returning to school during a pandemic should not be an option and they support virtual learning instead.

Many Chesterfield teachers are also calling for all schools to remain locked this fall. The Chesterfield Education Association released a statement calling for 100 percent virtual learning.

Doctors from VCU Health and the Richmond Health Department were on hand during an RPS Board Meeting on Thursday night, board members schools wouldn’t appear to be a major source of spreading coronavirus into the community. In fact, they say, only some 300 children and teenagers have made up Virginia’s COVID-19 cases, and very rarely are children sent to the hospital for it. Researchers say children are less likely to contract the virus, but the concern is the risk to teachers and staff.

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