Chickahominy Health District says rising COVID-19 numbers not driven by in-person learning

Case count in Hanover Schools not linked to in-person instruction

HANOVER Co., Va. (WWBT) - It’s been two days since Hanover County suspended all winter sports after a spike in COVID-19 cases, but no word has been given to the fate of in-person instruction.

The Chickahominy Health District Director Thomas Franck said they still consider Hanover County safe enough to continue in-person learning despite rising case numbers across the district.

“Any decision like that would have to be made by Hanover County School Board and Hanover County School leadership, and certainly we’re providing them with the latest information on metrics,” said Franck.

So far, Hanover currently sits at 43.4 cases a day per 100,000 residents which is significantly higher than the other three counties in the health district. As of Dec. 9, New Kent County has 24.2 daily cases, Goochland County has 23.2 daily cases and Charles City County has the least amount of infection at 12.3 cases daily.

Last month, Chesterfield County made the decision to go mostly virtual once cases went over 25 per 100,000.

Chickahominy Health District Director Tom Franck says the majority of new cases are happening outside of schools.

“The kids are at school and they are not transmitting the virus at school at the same rate that infection is spreading in the community, so perhaps we are still not at that level where we would have to consider closing schools,” said Franck.

According to the data from the Hanover County School System, there are more than 130 cases of COVID within Hanover County Schools and more than 750 close contacts associated with those cases, which led to quarantine. The data shows that the majority of cases that have occurred in schools have been among students.

Despite the cases school and county-wide, Franck believes that it’s still safe for in-person learning to continue because school transmission is not driving case numbers.

“There are over 10,000 students and there is a lot of staff back at school so when you look at those numbers and compare it with community cases that’s not a large number,” said Franck.

But Claudia Brookman, a parent of a virtual student and a member of Safe Return to Learn - Hanover, believes the time has come for the county to explore other options.

“If Henrico and Chesterfield are deciding it’s best to go completely virtual, I’m not sure why Hanover won’t either,” said Brookman. “I’m not sure that Hanover has set a particular threshold, which I find frightening.”

Franck says the health district still needs more data to determine a threshold to recommend to the school system to change current in-person learning practices.

“It’s a very complex decision to make and there are a lot of complex risk-to-benefit ratios to weigh,” said Franck.

As for winter sports, the county will announce its final decision about the season by Dec. 18.

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