Wolf Administration Gives Schools Reopening Guidance Based On Local Coronavirus Transmission Rate

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) – Under pressure to give schools more health guidance about how to safely reopen, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration says it’ll provide recommendations to school districts based on the local rate of transmission of the coronavirus.

The Department of Health said Monday it plans to provide an analysis showing the seven-day rate of transmission in each county and group those rates into three categories: low, moderate and substantial. The department’s recommendation on how to reopen would be based on those categories.


While a county’s transmission rate and corresponding category could change week by week, Wolf’s administration said schools should consider changing their instructional models only after looking at the past two weeks of transmission.


The recommendations rely on incidence rate and percent-positivity — two standard public health metrics.


You can read the latest guidance from the state online here. The administration says more guidance about what to do if there’s a coronavirus case at a school “is forthcoming.”


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KDKA talked to Superintendent Dr. Mark Holtzman of the McKeesport Area School District at the end of July. He said he’s just one of many school leaders who wanted specific guidance from the Allegheny County Health Department.


“I have a doctorate, but it’s in education. It’s not a medical degree. I’m having to make medical decisions I’m just not comfortable with,” said Dr. Mark Holtzman.


He said creating a plan for reopening safely has been “very challenging.”


The guidelines released from the state Monday are recommendations, not mandates.


“Since unveiling initial public health guidance for schools earlier in the summer, both the departments of Education and Health have engaged with superintendents and other education leaders regarding their questions and concerns,” Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew Stem said in a press release.


“With the continued uncertainty and varying infection rates across the state, school leaders have asked for additional guidance to help them make decisions about reopening schools. This tool responds to those requests by aligning public health conditions in counties directly to recommendations for the delivery of instruction.”


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