While hopeful that positive COVID-19 cases will continue to plateau, Gov. Albert Bryan, Jr. announced Tuesday the need to assess available staff and vaccinate as many students as before opening public schools in person. On Jan. 10, he said, all public school students will instead return virtually, with the goal of resuming in-person by Jan. 24.
The delay was expected and the reasoning was underscored by additional information provided by Health Department Medical Director Tai Hunte-Caesar, who said infection numbers are climbing among the local pediatric population, or those under five years of age who can’t be vaccinated and most likely caught the virus from their parents.
Making the learning environment as safe as possible for students, teachers and staff – which means catching up on vaccines and boosters for both children and adults – is imperative before returning, though Bryan also stressed the importance of getting back to the classroom and not pushing for a longer delay. With flights cancelled and testing shortages on the mainland, ensuring that there are enough teachers and other professionals available to staff the classrooms also weighs heavily in the re-opening decisions.
For residents, no additional restrictions were announced Tuesday, as Bryan said officials will be monitoring the numbers during the week to see if they continue to flatten out. As of Tuesday, the weekly positivity rate was 24.34 percent, with 2,111 active cases territory-wide. Among those active cases, about 8 percent are vaccinated, but most more than six months ago, according to the governor.