West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said the state could be moving back toward a mask mandate yesterday afternoon.

Currently, that decision sits in the hands of each county — and is even varying within counties, including schools.

In Ohio County, while no official decision has been made yet, Wheeling Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble says they’ve given the district their recommendation for the return of school.

“The recommendation K-12 is not to be masked at this time when they start school off. Now that can change, and we told schools ahead of time things can change if cases continue to escalate,” Gamble said.

He said the health department also had the same recommendation for higher education institutions.

Earlier this week, West Liberty University announced a mask mandate for indoor locations to start the academic year.

President Dr. W. Franklin Evans says the decision was made based off the age group on campus.

“We are different than K-12 in that in K-12, the system, the principal, the superintendent, the board has to make decisions that are in the best interest of little people, as well as faculty and staff. We have to make a similar decision, but we are dealing with adults,” Evans said.

While those under the age of 12 still aren’t cleared to receive the vaccine, Gamble says they don’t need to be masked at school. Gamble says they shouldn’t rely solely on masks to try to control the virus.

“The goal is to get more people vaccinated and not to rely on the mask. Masks are good, and they’re a great part of an overall program to reduce disease. But so is vaccination, so is testing, hand washing, isolation protocols as well as quarantine protocols. They all work together with lowering the rate of a disease,” Gamble said.

Schools head back in session later this month.

Photo credits: WTOV9