New guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education asks local divisions to implement their own mask guidelines based on the local COVID-19 environment.
The guidance doesn’t include mandatory policies for the whole Commonwealth, but does recommend requiring masks for everyone in elementary schools regardless of vaccination status until vaccines are available for children under 12. They also recommend that middle- and high-school staff and students should wear masks if not vaccinated.
Governor Ralph Northam announced Monday that Virginia has reached a key vaccination milestone: 70 percent of adult Virginians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Virginia has reached a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19,” Northam said in his announcement. “Thanks to the millions of Virginians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, the virus is in retreat, our economy is growing, and we are closer to putting this pandemic behind us.”
The Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released the results of a survey about the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on children in the state, which it calls “alarming.”
“In the nine months since the issuance of the COVID-19 emergency declaration, our patients have experienced a major disruption in their lives, including disruptions to academic structure, participation in activities, peer interactions, lifestyle, and overall physical and emotional health,” the group explained. “To better identify and address the concerns of our patients and providers in Virginia, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a survey in December 2020 of 203 pediatric providers in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Facing pressure from teacher’s advocacy groups, school districts across Virginia are reconsidering plans to return to in-person learning. Districts including Henrico County, Fairfax County, and Virginia Beach are canceling or postponing in-person learning options, according to reporting by NBC12 and Wavy.com. Other districts, including Chesterfield County and Loudoun County, are considering similar moves, according to ABC7 and WRIC. On Sunday, a group of Northern Virginia teachers’ associations wrote a letter citing rising COVID-19 cases and state guidance about limiting group size as a reason for postponing plans.
Since COVID-19 hit, official reports of child abuse and neglect have decreased nationally and in Virginia, but pediatrics experts warn that might not mean fewer cases of abuse.
“When families and parents are under greater stress, generally abuse increases,” President of the Virginia Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics Michael Martin told The Virginia Star.