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WILLIAMSON — For the first time since Oct. 4, students in Mingo County returned for in-person instruction this week after the county achieved gold status on the Saturday education map developed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

The switch to gold for Mingo County means that students were permitted to return for in-person learning on Monday with increased requirements including face coverings for children grades 3 and above at all times. Educators are also asked to increase student cohorting by limiting exposure of core groups.

No assemblies or large group activities are permitted while in gold.

Mingo County achieved gold status on the Saturday map as the county’s seven-day positivity rate dipped just below 5% following an uptick in testing across the county while the infection rate remained upward of 45%.

Six counties were listed as red, the highest-spread category, including Jackson, Wood, Marshall, Mineral, Hardy and Berkeley counties.

Thirteen counties were listed as orange on the weekly map, including Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Ritchie, Wirt, Mason, Putnam, Cabell, Wayne, Hampshire, Wyoming and Jefferson counties.

Wetzel, Nicholas, Clay, Upshur and Grant counties have chosen to proceed with remote learning even though their status allows for in-person instruction.

Despite school being closed in the county since early October, community spread of COVID-19 in Mingo County has remained rampant.

According to the WV DHHR COVID-19 dashboard as of Monday morning, 926 positive cases of COVID-19 have been found in Mingo County residents since the start of the pandemic out of 11,184 administered tests.

Active cases numbered 320 by the WVDHHR, and the county has seen 12 deaths, which means 594 patients have recovered.

From Monday, Nov. 16, to Sunday Nov. 22, 92 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the county.

The health department is urging the community to continue to practice social distancing, wear face coverings, if possible, and obey all governor’s executive orders.

The Mingo County Health Department along with the West Virginia National Guard is offering free COVID-19 testing sites across the county on a daily basis.

For locations and times of the testing sites, visit the health department Facebook page.

For more information about COVID-19 visit the WV DHHR at www.coronavirus.wv.gov or the CDC at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. For any remaining questions, you may also call the Mingo County Health Department at 304-235-3570.

Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.