COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia Public Schools notified families Friday that the district will require students 11-years-old and younger to wear masks inside and on buses during the summer session.
This decision comes as the district has continued to monitor Covid-19 cases. The 14-Day Tracker for CPS shows that the district entered back into the red zone for 7-day rate on June 28.
The week of June 28, the 7-day rate per 10,000 people was at 11.1. Since that week it has continued to rise and on July 8 it reached 17.3.
"A large number of the increase has happened at our elementary levels, those students do not yet have access to the vaccination," said Michelle Baumstark, spokeswoman for CPS.
Currently, in the district, 399 students are currently quarantined or isolated due to Covid with 361 of them at the elementary level.
Doctor Adam Wheeler, Big Tree Medical Home, said he does not fully support bringing the masking policies back to schools. "I'm not sure it's the kid's fault that people who are choosing not to immunize could get COVID. I also can't come up with any argument that would lead us to not using masks for influenza or other viruses wouldn't apply in this situation."
The district has also made adjustments to contact tracing and quarantine protocols. Quarantine is not required for fully vaccinated individuals who have no systems. You are considered fully vaccinated if it has been two weeks after you received both doses.
Quarantine is also not required if the individual exposed was wearing a mask and has no symptoms. Contact tracing will be done for those not wearing a mask within 3 feet of the positive individual indoors for a cumulative time of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period.
The district will continue with a 10-day quarantine for those exposed to the virus or a 7-day quarantine if a negative PCR test is obtained between five to seven days and shows no symptoms.
"Really the adjustments both the masks and the contact tracing is about finding a balance for our families. We want to continue to do our due diligence with mitigation, but we also want to keep our students in school," said Baumstark.
Baumstark said a lot of the cases are due to parents sending sick kids into school. A checklist is in place for parents to screen their children in order to keep schools safe. These include no fever or chills, no cough, no shortness of breath, no sore throat, no headaches, no muscle aches, no nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, no new loss of taste or smell, no new runny nose or congestion, and no close contact with a person with Covid-19 in the last 14 days.
Masks are also being strongly encouraged for those 12-years-old and older when inside CPS buildings, especially for unvaccinated individuals.
"Kids are going to get COVID, but the risk of death is so low that it doesn't really bother me," said Wheeler. He suggests for districts to let the virus "run its course." He said this would have effects on people who chose against immunization, but those people are in charge of their own health.
Baumstark said the district plans to continue monitoring cases in the county and evaluate what mitigation strategies will need to be in place for the Fall 2021 semester.
The district is hopeful that the vaccine will be available for younger children around August or September.