Trump virus adviser praises West Virginia school virus map


By John Raby - Associated Press



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s top coronavirus adviser said Wednesday that other states could adapt West Virginia’s color-coded map for public schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

The map, which will use four colors to classify the opening status of each of the 55 county school systems, “was very remarkable to me,” Dr. Deborah Birx said at a news conference. “I’m worried that West Virginia is going to get a call from another 49 governors.”

The map is based on the seven-day average of new daily cases per 100,000 population and range in color from minimal community transmission in green to substantial transmission in red. Red counties must suspend in-person instruction and activate remote learning plans.

Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said the school alert system map on the state’s website offers “very clear guidance of what to do depending upon what your category is.

“I was very excited about being able to take this to other governors,” Birx said. “It’s practical. It is something every county in every state can do. It’s understandable. And most importantly, it’s implementable.”

The map is based on a Harvard University model but places more emphasis on the potential community spread of the virus, rather than confirmed cases that exist in congregate settings such as nursing homes and prisons.

The visit by Birx came the same day that West Virginia University began meetings with individual students who are accused of attending crowded off-campus parties in violation of the university’s policies concerning the pandemic.

Birx said that even though colleges are testing students for the virus as part of their return to campus, “that can’t stop there.” She said there needs to be regular surveillance on campuses for what she called “super spreader-type events.”

The students were identified through tips to both police and the university. Social media postings showed partygoers without masks and ignoring social distancing and crowd limit mandates.

“The young people need to know that if this happens, the consequences actually could be quite severe,” Birx said.

West Virginia Dean of Students Corey Farris said plenty of warnings were issued in the months prior to the start of student move-ins last weekend. The university is allowed to take action for off-campus parties through the Office of Student Conduct. Violators could face suspension and even expulsion.

“We meant what we said from the beginning,” Farris said. “We’re doing our best for the students who aren’t playing by the rules to not ruin it for all the others who are playing by the rules, who are masking, who are physically distancing and the like.”

At least 103 WVU students, faculty and staff have tested positive for the virus among more than 17,700 tests given. Students must take the test before starting classes on campus.

Statewide, about 22% of all positive virus cases are from the 20-to-29 age group, far more than any others.

In-person classes start Aug. 26 for freshmen, graduate and some professional students, while upperclassmen will start classwork online.

According to health officials, there have been at least 8,800 confirmed cases and 166 virus-related deaths in West Virginia. The virus usually results in only mild to moderate symptoms, but is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with other health problems.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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By John Raby

Associated Press