Two Virginia school systems now require their winter and spring athletes get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Arlington County Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán said at the school board meeting Thursday night that athletes for both their winter and spring seasons will need to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 8 for the remainder of the school year.
The announcement comes after Fairfax County Public Schools, the state’s largest school system, took the same stance late last month.
Arlington and Fairfax County schools will offer a weekly testing option for students who are unable to be vaccinated.
In Fairfax County, that will mean students have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis. The test itself can be a rapid test or a PCR test — but it cannot be a over-the-counter test used at home. The school system will provide access to testing for any student who needs it.
The vaccine requirement only applies to high school athletes and eighth-graders in Arlington County.
Durán said this measure will help protect students from COVID-19 and allow sports competitions to continue.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand said that five of the seven outbreaks tied to Fairfax County schools have been associated with athletics.
Requiring athlete vaccinations appears to be a growing trend in D.C. area school systems, as public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, are now doing the same.
Though local Virginia schools have been able to avoid some of the quarantine struggles that Montgomery County schools in have been hit with just a couple of weeks into the new academic year.
Braband said COVID numbers are low at Fairfax County school boards meeting Thursday night, noting that “our in-school transmission is incredibly low, and our layered prevention strategies are working.”
So far this school year 501 students and staff in Fairfax County schools have tested positive for COVID-19. The county’s health department said that, right now, 393 people connected to the school system are in quarantine.
Brabrand added that the positivity rate means “less than a half percent of our total students and staff have had positive cases.”
The school system also said it’s making some changes to school lunches to try and keep the transmission rates low. For instance, schedules are being adjusted so that more students can eat lunch outside.
Brabrand also said that 80% of contract school staff have reported their vaccination status to the school system.
Of that 80%, more than 97% have been vaccinated.
A total of 77% of all Fairfax County of those aged 16-17 are currently fully vaccinated and 87% have had one dose as of Aug. 30, according to Fairfax County schools.
In Arlington County, 94% of those aged 12-17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, per the Virginia Department of Health.
WTOP’s Matthew Delaney contributed to this report.