Mineral County to mandate masks for students, staff on Friday

Liz Beavers
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
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KEYSER – When Mineral County’s students return to school Friday, all students and staff will be required to wear a mask while indoors and on buses. 

Acting on the recommendation of Mineral County Health Department administrator A.Jay Root, the board of education Tuesday agreed that masks would be required based upon current COVID-19 statistics in Mineral County and the state in general. 

“This variant is three times as potent … it’s not something to be taken lightly,” Root told the board members. “The board of health strongly encourages masking and following the CDC guidelines.” 

According to Root, in contrast to last year’s rise in positives which increased slowly and decreased slowly, the current variant tends to rise sharply then decrease sharply, and “it’s already hitting us. 

“We’ll probably be red tomorrow,” he said of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID map.  

According to statistics released by the health department Wednesday, there are currently 75 positive cases in Mineral County. When Root spoke to the board the day before, the number was only 52.  “There were probably another 10 that came in today," he said at the time.

Board president Lara Courrier said she agreed with the recommendation to require masks for the start of school, but suggested, with the expected steep decrease, that the decision could be re-evaluated at the end of the first nine-weeks grading period. 

All five board members agreed with the mask mandate, but Donnie Ashby and Terry Puffinburger both shared concerns that teachers had voiced to them about how difficult it often is to teach such subjects as speech and reading when the teachers and students are masked. 

Tom Denne,  however, was adamant that he felt masks are necessary. 

“All masked, all the time, all people when we’re indoors,” he said. “It’s just not a tough call for me.” 

“If we’re going to keep our kids in school, this is what we need to do,” board vice president Mary Jane Baniak said. “I cannot think of any logical reason why we would not start out school requiring masks.” 

Superintendent Troy Ravenscroft did note that there would be one big different between this year and last in regard to how decisions to quarantine students and/or staff are made. 

While last year’s recommendation was that anyone within six feet of a positive case had to be quarantined, this year’s recommendation is three feet in proximity and if  the positive or symptomatic person is masked and the ones around him are masked, it would only be the symptomatic person who is quarantined. 

Friday’s mask mandate does not apply to those who are outdoors, including outdoor sports events. 

NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect Wednesday's updated COVID numbers in Mineral County.

Liz Beavers is managing editor of the Mineral Daily News Tribune and can be reached at lbeavers@newstribune.info