New COVID-19 study in Missouri schools unlike any other in the country

Missouri
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new COVID-19 study inside schools across Missouri is a first-of-its-kind with the goal of understanding mitigation strategies in school transmission.

Less than three weeks after Governor Mike Parson and Missouri’s education leaders relaxed the quarantine rules for students in the classroom, the CDC and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) plan to be the first state in the country to study transmission of COVID-19 in schools and the impact it has on quarantine procedures.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and schools battle with bringing students back to the classroom or pushing them towards virtual learning, the state of Missouri wants to learn more about the transmission of the virus in schools.

Starting this week, the CDC, DHSS, and Washington University in St. Louis will begin the first-ever study to understand the impact of mitigation strategies in school transmission which DHSS says will help inform them of quarantine procedures.

No one from the department would go on camera, but in a statement, Lisa Cox, the communications director for DHSS, said:

We are working with the CDC and Washington University on this study. The process of recruiting participating schools is still underway. The specific aims include describing and assessing the fidelity of mitigation strategies implemented by schools and the impact of these on secondary transmission. When there is a case identified in a participating school, contact tracing will be performed to identify close contacts who will then be followed for symptoms and will be offered testing at various time points to detect asymptomatic cases. The purpose of this project is to understand the impact of our mitigation strategies in school transmission which can then help to inform our quarantine procedures.

Cox also said students will be tested for COVID-19 over a 30-day period for this study.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said it could not speak about the details of the study, but Chief Communications Officer Mallory McGowin sent a statement saying:

“DHSS and WashU are keeping DESE informed along the way. DESE is looking forward to the school-specific information that can be learned from this effort and appreciate the partnerships that are making this happen. We expect to know more finalized information in the coming weeks.”

No one from the department would go on camera, but in a DHSS issued the following statement:

Earlier this month, the governor, DHSS and DESE released new quarantine guidance for schools saying as long as the student or staff member was wearing a mask correctly during the time of exposure and are not showing any symptoms, they can continue to attend school.

DHSS said the state is still in the process of recruiting schools to participate in the study. Besides students, teachers will be included in the case and contact investigation.

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