Schools in Mon County navigate coronavirus surge

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Board of Education are maintaining course after a change in statewide cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Monongalia County ranking with the third most cases of COVID-19 after Tuesday’s statewide report from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, officials from the Monongalia County Board of Education work to continue their regular operations. The board, was presented updates on cases numbers in the school system as well as their approach to recently approved booster vaccines on a national level. According to the board, case numbers have seen a reduction for the entire school system and as part of a larger vaccination effort, booster shots would not be considered necessary as well.

“I’m encouraged by the results that we are seeing and the efforts that we have put in place,” said Monongalia County School Deputy Superintendent Donna Talerico during the meeting. “The numbers are posted, the numbers look pretty similar this past week, but working with School Health today, Monday and Tuesday’s numbers we have seen a slight, steady decline,” she said.

The decision to not follow up with the booster vaccines, are based on information released from Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel which states that the vaccine should not need a booster in comparison to the Pfizer vaccines against COVID-19. This information was released to the West Virginia Department of Education, which has 53 out of it’s 55 presiding school systems taking the Moderna vaccine for its staff members. With the universal vaccination efforts already in place along with the new information released to the school system, Monongalia County School Superintendent Dr. Eddie Campbell feels the extra mandates are probably not necessary.

“Moderna has not approved the booster shot,” said Campbell regarding the booster shots. “They feel like their second shot was strong enough that it will get us through, at least to this point, so we won’t be working on that in the near future,” he said.

Despite the hesitance behind booster shots, the Monongalia County Board of Education, will still maintain efforts such as mask wearing and vaccine recommendations for employees, that have been in place since the beginning of the school year. So far, despite an acknowledged trend of Monongalia County Elementary Schools having their respective incidents of “COVID hotspots,” it appears that Monongalia County will maintain their position to continue hosting in person classes, with those mandates in place. With a recent downward trend in cases for the school system along with an over seventy-five percent vaccination rate for staff members, the Monongalia County Board of Education felt there was no immediate need to move to a virtual format.

“We continue to use the same mitigation efforts, and we’re strong in all of those areas,” said Talerico regarding school wide safety precautions. “The disposable masks are shared with the schools, this past week that we’ve been ordered, we continue to dispatch the COVID cleaning team,” she said.

On the whole as a state, West Virginia has seen both a major rise in COVID-19 cases and a steady decline in the course of two weeks. Seeing a peak of over 19,000 active cases statewide, it has now seen a drop to 13,542 cases across West Virginia. For Monongalia County Schools, there has been a drop of cases that has gone from the several hundred to now eighty-nine across the school system in the same, near month long, time frame. Despite that, Monongalia County school officials stated that they will remain diligent and ready to pivot if something changes in the ever hectic COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is reason to think that we may be moving in a downward manner at this point,” said Talerico. “So it’s still about managing COVID, as we manage so many other issues in the system,” she said.