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ERIE COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – The Erie County Board of Health has issued its recommendations for a safe start to the 2020-2021 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ohio Department of Health designated Erie County as a red alert level 3 on July 23, which means there is very high exposure and community spread of coronavirus.

The health department says it has identified a significant increase in young people who are infected by the virus.

The department says 212 school staff and students have been exposed to coronavirus since July.

“The number would surely be higher had schools remained open,” the department says in a press release.

“The top priority for returning to school is the health and safety of students, staff, and families. Based on this information, the Erie County Board of Health recommends that all public and private Erie County school districts implement a plan for virtual education of students for the first academic quarter of the 2020-2021 school year.”

The health department recommends district plan on virtual learning through October 30.

They recommend districts follow OHSAA and Governor Mike Dewine’s orders related to sports activities.

The health department says since non-contact sports practices resumed in late May, cases have been linked to 16 school-sponsored sports events.

The health department says the cases are not linked to a specific sport but from groups of people gathering together.