JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As many metro area school districts revert to virtual learning due to a spike in COVID-19 transmissions, Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced that the state is modifying his guidance regarding students and educators quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19 while in a school setting.
“Today, we are announcing wearing a mask may now prevent individuals from being identified as close contact in K-12 schools,” Parson said.
Districts with mask mandates in place and properly wearing a mask will prevent students from being identified as close contacts in schools.
The governor addressed the difficulty of sustaining in-person learning with so many staff and students being required to quarantine.
“As long as they do not begin to show symptoms, those close contacts may continue to attend school in person,” Parson said.
Throughout COVID-19 state leaders have worked with several infectious disease experts across Missouri. He introduced Rachel Orscheln, M.D. to speak more about the data that led state leaders to make the decision to modify guidance.
“Through this process, we’ve examined the literature and guidance as it relates to children in schools and we learned a number of things about how the novel coronavirus affects children,” Orscheln said. “We’ve learned that young children tend to transmit this infection less often than adolescence and adults.”
Orscheln said the strategies school systems have been using thus far could be successful in communities.
“This includes screening all students, staff, and faculty members for signs of illness and having people stay home if they have any signs of illness,” Orscheln said.
Orscheln also reported that studies show wearing masks also protects the wearer from acquiring the virus.
“What we are saying is a large number of students are being quarantined, but as we follow the data, we find there are very few secondary cases developing in those students,” Orscheln said.
“At this time, we find it reasonable to adapt the approach to take into consideration the mitigation measures being used into allow the students to have a very low risk of infection to remain in the school environment.”
Commissioner Margie Vandevan joined the governor’s press conference with commentary on the new guidelines.
“Large numbers of students and staff members who have to stay home is creating significant unintended consequences,” Vandevan said.
Vandevan reported that some students are doing well in this virtual learning and others are not.
“There has been a challenge to reach out to quarantine students as teachers continue to try to teach in person, but it’s exhausting, and it is not sustainable.”
Vandevan claimed countless families have reached out truly concerned about their students’ mental health.
“We believe this will also provide relief for our healthcare professionals across the state,” Parson said. “We hope these new guidelines will give some important relief to these healthcare workers as well as all workers who have to stay home with their kids in quarantine.”