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Henrico Schools In-Person Return Proceeds As COVID-19 Cases Increase

Graphic of coronavirus indicators
Measures of COVID-19 spread are on the rise in Henrico County. Cases per capita and percent positivity now sit in the "highest" and "moderate" risk levels respectively. (Graphic from Henrico County School Board Health Committee)

Despite increases in COVID-19 cases and positive tests, Henrico County still plans to bring students back to the classroom at the end of this month.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, 212 Henrico residents per 100,000 have tested positive in the last 14 days, placing the county at “highest risk of transmission in schools.” Currently, 5.7% of tests are returning positive in the county -- moderate risk.

Presenting to the Henrico school board Thursday, Beth Teigen of the board’s health committee said the district is monitoring the numbers closely to see if the increase could be directly linked to COVID-19 spread in schools. 

“The health committee will meet to determine if there are any large scale outbreaks, such as in a long term care facility, that may be impacting the data. The committee will also review our HCPS case data to determine if there’s an increase in the number of cases based on school-based spread, or if it continues to be community-based spread,” Teigen said.

Although case counts and positive tests are on the rise, she indicated the situation as it currently stands will not halt the district’s plan to return in phases to in-person learning. However, that’s subject to change as more health data becomes available.

“If one of these two core indicators is at the ‘highest risk of transmission,’ and the other indicator is either at the ‘higher’ or ‘highest risk’ level, upon the review of large scale outbreaks, the committee would likely recommend a scale back in in-person learning,” Teigen said.

HCPS Superintendent Amy Cashwell pointed out that a third core indicator, which measures a district’s ability to implement mitigation strategies, is at the green “lowest risk” category. This indicator is self-assessed by the school district, based on social distancing and availability of personal protective equipment .

Henrico schools plan to start bringing students in pre-K through second grade back to classrooms on November 30, with the goal of having all students back by February. 13 people have tested positive at Henrico school buildings this month.