PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is following COVID-19 cases, guidelines and recommendations to help you make the best decisions for your family’s health.

CDC guidelines now recommend universal masking for more than 65 counties and cities in Virginia including Newport News and Suffolk. High community spread is noted on the government COVID tracker.

As we get ready to start a new school year, the Virginia Department of Health has some tips for parents.

Dr. Lisa Thanjan recommends picking up a new mask or two while you’re out buying school supplies.

“I definitely will chose to continue to provide my child a mask and try to keep them safe as much as I can,” said Thanjan who lives in an area with high community spread.

Just like the pencil box, you’ll be filling with tools to help your child learn. Dr. Thanjan said you should consider the tool kit to help prevent the spread of COVID and at the top of that supply list is the COVID vaccine.

“With this, you can feel confident that your child is protected from severe outcomes from COVID-19,” she said.

Next on the list: masks. It is up to each family to decide whether their child will wear one. There is no mandate in Virginia schools.

The CDC recommends universal masking when a community is in the red or high spread zone.
Currently, Hampton Roads, Newport News and Suffolk are seeing a high level of community spread while Chesapeake, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia beach are reporting medium spread.

Thanjan told 10 ON Your Side it’s important for people to pay attention to the community spread levels because they can change week by week.

“It’s safe to assume we will continue to see ebbs and flows with new subvariants over time,” she said.

Also, with those new variants each proving to be more transmissible than the last, Dr. Thanjan says it’s important to pay attention and use those tools to protect your family from COVID in class and in the community.

“It’s hard to say exactly what will happen but I think we definitely have to start taking steps now to prepare for whatever comes our way in the fall and winter.”

Virginians who have not been fully vaccinated, or are eligible for booster doses, can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682 to find nearby vaccination clinics.

Those seeking to find or schedule a testing appointment can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.