Virginia Eases Most COVID Restrictions For Schools
Updating state COVID-19 guidelines, Virginia schools will now be able to follow heavily relaxed policies and procedures.
The newest and allegedly highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus is raging through Virginia, as more than 50 localities are now reported in being within rates that are highly transmissible. But at the same time that this is being reported, the state’s Republican Governor is applauding new COVID guidelines for Virginia schools. In updated measures, the state will go into the fourth year of the pandemic era of school with heavily relaxed restrictions affecting all schools and school-related programs, camps, and daycares.
The updated state COVID guidelines will ease quarantine mandates for children and educators, despite whether or not they are asymptomatic, or even displaying symptoms. It also further clarifies masking recommendations within Virginia schools and daycares, which the state already loosened earlier this past year to further depict that it is no longer recommended by the health department. As has been the norm with the shifts in these policies and measures, some are hailing the government’s decision, while others are further concerned about how it may affect health and safety.
In a statement last week, Gov. Youngkin hailed the decision, citing a need to return to normal life after the pandemic disrupted Virginia schools for the past two school years. Criticizing the old COVID guidelines set in place during the 2021-2022 school year, he noted how some schools and daycares were being completely shut down simply because of a few positive cases. He also noted that the decision to relax guidelines was done so out of data depicting how the severity of the virus has been proven to decrease over time.
It has long been believed by many that over time, the virus would affect most individuals at a less severe rate than what it was first known to. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has mimicked this sentiment recently. Because of this notion, Virginia schools will no longer be required by the state to adhere to strict guidelines. Whether or not a person inside a school setting is vaccinated will not matter anymore, and those showing zero symptoms of the virus will no longer have to quarantine or mask whatsoever.
Much of this decision is thanks to lawmakers like Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, who has pushed for relaxed COVID protocols all school year long. Dunnavant noted that particularly at the preschool level, policies were erratic and inconsistent. Even after masking was made optional for all Virginia schools earlier this year, she asserts that many facilities were still found to be requiring them, generally because of confusion between the state’s ruling and those of the CDC, which contradicts many of the now-standard Virginia guidelines.
Even for Virginia schools within areas depicting high transmission rates, quarantines and masks will still not be recommended. However, WRIC noted that the new guidelines leave room for elasticity to enact stricter “recommendations” in certain instances. Still, the decision to do this can only be made by regional local epidemiologists.
Virginia school districts will welcome students back nearly a month from now, as the state has once again eased COVID protocols. The hope is that schools will be able to operate under normal procedure once again and that students and teachers will celebrate a return to normalcy without having to be forced into wearing masks for the duration of the school day. But despite the support, the virus continues to rage on throughout the states, and only time will tell if these new, less restrictive measures will remain operable in Virginia schools.