WEST VIRGINIA (WVVA) -- The County Alert System will soon feature a new color.
In a special Tuesday press briefing, Governor Jim Justice announced another change to the metric - a 'gold' category.
Gold will stand between the yellow and orange categories, and range between 10-14.9 cases per 100,000 people (on a 7-14 day rolling average).
The yellow category is now 3.1-9.9 cases, and orange has changed to 15-24.9 cases.
What we're really talking about are the counties that are so close to being able to be in person and should they be treated the same as somebody that's trending upwards of 20+," said Clayton Burch, Superintendent of Schools. "I think that becomes very difficult to tell parents that we;re going to treat you the exact same way, when the communities are doing what they can to try to mitigate and get those numbers down."
Counties in the gold will be permitted to attend in-person instruction - with increased mitigation efforts. Under WVDE guidelines, no assemblies or large group activities will be held at schools in this category. Masks will also be required, at all times, for grades 3-12.
Athletic and extra-curricular activities will be held in gold counties, but schools can only compete in-county, or with other gold counties. However, attendance is limited to parents/guardians only. Cheerleaders and bands can participate only at home games.
Additionally, state officials will look at an alternative factor that will also determine a county's ability to return to school - 'percent positive rate.'
If a county's percent positive rate stays below 5% on a 7-day rolling average, that county will be permitted to stay in the gold (or lower), and return to in-person instruction.
"We want to incentivize the counties to show up to get tested more. Because the more you test, the lower that number starts to go down," explained Dr. Clay Marsh, COVID-19. "By testing more, we're able to identify people that are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic, which is exactly what we want to do to reduce the spread of COVID-19."