Rising COVID cases in Virginia causing increased teacher absences, canceling school programs

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Posted at 6:29 PM, May 12, 2022

RICHMOND, Va -- As COVID-19 cases spike across Virginia, Richmond mom, Theresa Kennedy, said she's sticking to the pandemic basics.

“I just think it’s a matter of remaining vigilant and staying cautious," Kennedy said. "My kids still wear masks in school.”

Despite taking the extra safety step, Kennedy said a recent uptick in cases in her school district doesn't worry her too much.

“I think the risk right now is somewhat lower now that treatments for COVID seem to be much more effective," she said.

Richmond Public Schools confirmed it's seeing increased spread among students and teachers which is causing more absences.

Some parents have wondered if staffing issues may arise again which could impact after school programming.

“Do I have those concerns? Sure, absolutely, of course, but I trust our administration to take all the steps that are necessary," Kennedy said.

Theresa Kennedy
Theresa Kennedy

"There are some more teacher absences as they test positive, but nothing significant that has impacted school activities," said Richmond Public Schools spokesperson, Sarah Abubaker.

Henrico Public Schools has also noticed increased transmission in schools. However, a spokesperson said it has a minimal impact on day-to-day operations.

In Chesterfield, Midlothian High School postponed a theatre production due to COVID-19 per a recommendation from the county's health district.

"CCPS works closely with the Virginia Department of Health and the Chesterfield Health District regarding cases reported in our school community, and the division follows VDH guidance on any recommended actions based on individual situations. This can include pausing activities," said spokesperson, Shawn Smith.

Hanover Public Schools said the number of new cases reported in the district over the past month has remained steady.

In Hampton Roads, a Portsmouth High School transitioned to virtual school for two days due to teachers out sick with the virus.

Neither Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, or Chesterfield Schools said they'd expect to transition to online learning in the event of a COVID-19 surge.

All school districts have a backup plan in place for potential staffing shortages which include utilizing substitutes and central office staff to fill in if necessary.

Chtaura Jackson, an epidemiologist with the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts, and reporter Tyler Layne.
Chtaura Jackson, an epidemiologist with the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts, and reporter Tyler Layne.

Meanwhile, the severity of coronavirus remains low among children. Across Virginia in the past 13 weeks, just 80 patients under the age of 20 have been hospitalized with COVID-19. That's a hospitalization rate of 1 per 100,000 0-9-year-olds and 0 per 100,000 10-19-year-olds.

“We know that the vast majority of kids tend to improve well from COVID," said Chtaura Jackson, an epidemiologist with the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts.

She said health experts work closely with schools on recommendations and guidance, but changes to mitigation strategies in the classroom depend on several factors in induvial schools.

“The school should look at case count, number of outbreaks you're seeing in your school, the staff and student absenteeism, do you have a testing program in place," Jackson explained.

COVID-19 Community Levels were calculated on May 5, 2022.
COVID-19 Community Levels calculated on May 5, 2022.

As the pandemic inches closer to becoming an endemic, Jackson encouraged every parent to use best judgment to keep their family safe.

“It's not going away," Jackson said. "COVID is going to be here. How it happens in regards to how many cases you have depends on what we do."

Currently, much of Central Virginia is experiencing "low" spread, according to the CDC's community levels map. The metric includes case counts, hospitalization rates, and hospital capacity.

Jackson said she expects it to shift to "medium" soon. In fact, that happened when the CDC updated its map Thursday afternoon.

RELATED:Much of Central Virginia now ranks as medium, updated CDC COVID Community Levels map shows

COVID-19 Community Levels calculated on May 12, 2022.
COVID-19 Community Levels calculated on May 12, 2022.

"The CDC does recommend kids wear masks in schools, but it's not a requirement for Virginia," Jackson said. "You want to use the level [of transmission] that you're in to kind of determine the level of mitigation that you put in."

Jackson maintained the best way to prevent spread is through vaccination.

Mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway.

Virginians age 5+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Go to Vaccine Finderto search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
What you can and should not do once you have been fully vaccinated.

How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.