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Winter sports still on hold

With COVID-19 cases and health metrics still climbing in Suffolk, Western Tidewater and the Eastern Region, Suffolk Public Schools will continue to suspend winter activities.

An announcement on its website said that the next review will be Jan. 4. The division has said it would review the health metrics on a weekly basis to determine whether athletic activities could resume.

Students in specialized programs will continue with in-person instruction one day per week on Wednesdays.

However, with both health metrics remaining in the red for the region for the fourth straight week, and in the red for the city for the third straight week — red indicating the most severe.

Elementary school students were to return to school for face-to-face instruction Jan. 4, and middle and high school students were to return Jan. 11.

Both dates had been targeted previously as dates those groups would return for face-to-face instruction twice per week, with the other days to be for virtual learning.

“The school board will determine the return of students at a future date,” the SPS announcement read.

The board’s next meeting is Jan. 14.

No matter the metrics, it is unlikely that students would return to school for in-person instruction before the beginning of the second semester in February.

The seven-day percent positivity rate in Suffolk was 14.9% as of Dec. 28, with a seven-day average of 40.1 cases per 100,000 people. The city’s seven-day positivity rate has steadily risen since the end of November, when it was just 4.9%.

In the Eastern Region, made up of localities in South Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, the seven-day positivity rate is 13.9.%, with a seven-day average of 40.1 cases per 100,000 people.

In the Western Tidewater Health District — made up of Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County — the seven-day positivity rate is 10.5%, higher than the state’s positivity rate of 12.2% as of Dec. 25, the most recent date an average is available.

For the week of Dec. 21-27, the division reported four positive COVID-19 cases, two at Nansemond River High School, and one each at King’s Fork Middle School and Northern Shores Elementary School, and 67 cases overall since Sept. 7.

The division, however, notes that one case does not equal one individual, as its total number of cases may include a single person who was in multiple locations, and reports cases for both PCR and rapid test results.

So far, 23 public school divisions and 40 public high schools overall have opted not to participate in winter sports, according to the Virginia High School League. Two Western Tidewater school divisions — Southampton County and Surry County — have chosen not to participate in winter sports.