To Meet a Health Emergency to Keep Students, Staff & Community Safe Against Continued Spread of COVID-19, School Board Adopts Vaccination or Testing Requirements of All Employees

Finding that there exists a health emergency that “requires action to safeguard students and staff against the risks of infection, illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19,” the Albemarle County School Board this evening adopted Emergency Order No. 21-3, issued on Wednesday for county government employees by County Executive Jeff Richardson. The board’s action extends the Emergency Order’s vaccination or testing requirements for local government employees to all school division employees. 

In its resolution, the school board said it “has a substantial public interest in protecting the health and safety of its students, staff, and community and ensuring that the school division can provide staff and students with a safe and effective educational environment that supports student achievement.” 

It described employees as “essential to the efficient education of all students and their social and emotional well-being,” adding that the recent presence of the COVID-19 Delta variant has led to a surge in which 90% of infections are occurring in individuals who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The county executive’s emergency order requires all local government employees to submit proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by September 15 or to submit a negative COVID-19 test each week. Richardson noted in a news release, “As a local government, we have a dual responsibility of protecting our workforce and the community we serve. With data on the transmissibility of the Delta variant, we feel the best way to ensure we maintain government services is to require our staff to either be vaccinated or to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.”

In a resolution adopted during its meeting, the school board directed the division to “work in partnership with the County of Albemarle in the implementation of Order 21-3 in order to control the spread of COVID-19 in the school division and community.”

In a report to the board last evening, the school division said the number of COVID-19 infections in the county has increased by more than 50% in the past seven days, putting the county in the category of substantial transmission for the virus. The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests currently is 4.4%, which is slightly below the low transmission category. According to guidelines established by the Virginia Department of Health, when there are differences in transmission categories, localities should use the more severe category in planning its mitigation strategies and practices. 

The actions by county government and the school division follow a decision by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam earlier this month to require approximately 122,000 state employees to show proof of being fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus by September 1 or proof of weekly negative tests. The governor said at the time, “The only way to end this pandemic is for everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As head of state government, we have a responsibility to lead by example and ensure the safety of our employees and the people they serve. The three vaccines are safe, effective, free, and widely available, and I strongly urge every eligible Virginian to get their shot. The time for waiting is over.”
 
In Albemarle County, the Blue Ridge Health District reports that 78.2% of youths between the ages of 12 and 15 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 68.5% are fully vaccinated. Among youths ages 16 and 17, 83% have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 76% are fully vaccinated. 

Vaccination rates in the county among adults who have received one vaccine dose range from 57% for those between the ages of 18 and 24 to as high as 92% for people between the ages of 65 and 84. Among adults between the ages of 18 and 24, 51.4% are fully vaccinated and more than 80% of those in the 65 to 84 age group also are fully vaccinated. 

Following the board’s action last evening, the school division will develop a process for how the resolution’s vaccine and testing requirements will be implemented. 

The school board also delegated to Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matthew Haas, the authority to implement and modify vaccination and testing procedures based upon changing conditions and in accordance with the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health, the Blue Ridge Health District, and other applicable health authorities.


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