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Safeguard: Justice should extend school building closure

Gov. Jim Justice is right to hold off on taking action recommended by the West Virginia Education Association, to close schools from Thanksgiving until the beginning of 2021. As the governor noted, “There are so many ramifications” to such an order.

But Justice may want to meet the WVEA part-way to its goal.

With COVID-19 on a deadly tear throughout our state, concern about children in school contracting the virus there, then taking it home to older people, has increased. It is particularly because the children are much less likely to show symptoms of the disease that they present a major threat as carriers.

Justice has ordered that school buildings throughout West Virginia be closed from at least the day before Thanksgiving until Dec. 3. In several counties, the COVID-19 situation has in-person classes suspended already — and it is possible they will remain so during the three days leading up to Thanksgiving next week.

Keeping students out of school buildings for several days after Thanksgiving is wise because it appears a substantial number of people are ignoring warnings about big gatherings. If they do, COVID-19 will be given an opening — possibly through some of the children at those celebrations — to spread even faster and more widely than it is doing now.

Justice’s plan for students not to go back to school for nearly a week after Thanksgiving provides a bit of a buffer to prevent that.

But why not add four days to the safety period? That could be done by ordering that schools remain closed for in-person learning not just until Dec. 3, but also that day and the next, which is a Friday. Not bringing them back until Monday, Dec. 7, would add four days to the break.

That could provide a meaningful additional safeguard. Justice should consider amending his order, then, to keep schools closed from Thanksgiving through Dec. 7. That could save lives.

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