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Stay home: Health officer recommends distance learning for Washoe schools

By ThisIsReno

Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick told Board of Health officials today that area students should not be returning to schools in person this fall, recommending a continuation of distance learning. The recommendation is based on the county’s high rate of new cases of COVID-19 based on the Governor’s Disease Transmission Tracker and its recent designation as a “yellow zone” by the White House Task Force.

“I can’t recommend reopening schools physically in Washoe County due to the high potential for increased spread of disease that exists,” Dick said. “Due to the risk of infection, the upward trend in new cases since July 12 and criteria set at the state and federal level, distance learning is the safest path forward at this time. Due to the elevated level of disease transmission currently occurring in Washoe County, our fear is the high potential of the virus spreading to students and faculty, and eventually to our vulnerable populations, where the fatality rate is much higher.”

Dick’s recommendation doesn’t apply to teachers, however, who he said should be able to return to school buildings to conduct distance learning.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the Washoe County School District, which earned approval from the Nevada Department of Education for three potential learning plans: distance learning only, classroom learning only, or a hybrid of both. WCSD’s Board of Trustees will hear more from Dick at their previously scheduled meeting Tuesday, July 28 at 2 p.m. and have the option of making a final decision on school re-opening during the meeting.

According to a statement from Washoe County, the Health Officer’s recommendations are based off two criteria: Nevada’s COVID-19 Elevated Disease Transmission Tracker for counties and the designation of Washoe County as a yellow zone by  the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The Transmission Tracker shows Washoe County’s new case rate is 190.8 per 100,000 over the last 14 days, which exceeds the 100 per 100,000 case rate that’s been established as a transmission threshold.

WCSD officials are encouraging the community to watch next Tuesday’s meeting online, streamed via YouTube. Meeting documents and an email to submit comments are available on the district website’s homepage at https://www.washoeschools.net/.

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