Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) announced more lax COVID-19 guidelines for schools Thursday even as cases spike across the country.
Parson, along with state’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), stressed that the prevalence of educators and students out of school due to quarantine reasons “has presented a significant strain for educators, school leaders, and Missouri families alike," which creates an environment that is not sustainable or effective in teaching the state’s K-12 youth.
“We know that COVID-19 is not going away soon, so it is important that we continue to evaluate the guidance we’re issuing at the state level to make sure our procedures are sustainable for the next several months,” Parson said in a statement. “We have been working hard with DESE and DHSS to find a solution that allows us to continue providing the high-quality education our students deserve while still keeping them, our teachers, and all school staff members safe.”
The guidelines stress the importance of mask-wearing, stating that as long as everyone is doing so, transmission of the disease will avoidable and quarantine won't be necessary.
Proper mask usage may prevent people from being identified as close contacts, meaning that if two people — one who is COVID-19 positive and another who has been exposed to the positive case — have masks on, the individual exposed does not need to quarantine, the guidelines state.
“Given the high rates of COVID-19 in our communities, it is inevitable that some children and adolescents will test positive,” Rachel Orscheln, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases, said. “We also know that some of these children will likely, at some point in their illness, be at school. However, we have learned that in schools where students and staff are always wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, this virus does not spread as easily as it does in other places where these strategies are not always used.”
Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus is still required to stay home under the new guidelines, and the loosened guidelines only apply to schools where mask mandates are in place.
Missouri has seen a sharp uptick in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, as the country as a whole is experiencing an upward trend.