Columbia Public Schools' superintendent said Thursday that the district will require students and staff to wear masks starting next week as coronavirus cases surge.
Superintendent Brian Yearwood said in an email to parents that the temporary mandate will be in effect through Feb. 4. School begins Tuesday next week because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
"This means for the next 14 school days, while we experience the Omicron spike, masks must be worn inside all school and district buildings," Yearwood wrote. "Under federal guidelines, masks are also required on school buses. Schools will continue to have masks available for those who need them."
The two-week timeline is tied to the findings of monitoring of coronavirus in sewage, Yearwood wrote.
"Current projections indicate, we have two to three weeks to manage and mitigate the Omicron variant before the virus peaks and we begin to see a decline in cases," he wrote.
Yearwood also asked parents to check their students for symptoms before school each day. The move comes as the omicron variant spreads and sickens hundreds of students and staff. The district reported 348 active student cases Thursday and 105 staff cases.
The district has seen a 20% absentee rate over the last week, Yearwood wrote.
Yearwood's letter said the school board would also consider "emergency interventions and revisions to the district’s COVID response plan" at a Jan. 20 work session.
Boone County broke records Thursday for most new daily cases and active cases.
The Columbia Board of Education repealed the district's mask mandate last month amid legal threats from the Missouri attorney general. Since that time, the omicron variant has become dominant, creating an unprecedented wave of new cases and pushing Missouri's COVID-19 hospitalizations to record levels.
Some parents and students have been petitioning the district and holding protests to get the mask mandate reinstated.
Earlier Thursday, the Jefferson City School District said it would also require masks temporarily because of high case rates in students and staff.
Boone County reports a record number of new and active coronavirus cases
The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 748 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. The dashboard reports that 64 of the new cases were between the ages of 18 and 22 on Thursday.
The 748 new coronavirus cases are a record for Boone County. The previous record was set on Monday with 564 new cases. Over half of the new cases (393) are under the age of 30 with the largest age group being 10-19 (153 cases).
There are currently 3,308 active cases in the county and 33,240 cases since the pandemic began. The county has reported 2,287 new coronavirus cases since Monday.
The county also reported one new coronavirus-related death. There are now 193 deaths since March 2020. The individual was in the 55-59 age group and died Jan. 8.
The county reported 29,739 cases removed from isolation.
Boone County ranks eighth in the state with the most coronavirus cases in total volume in the past week. Cases are up 73.3% when comparing last week to the prior week. The county has a 31.9% positivity test rate, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
The health department's hospital status is yellow with 154 COVID-19 patients in Boone County hospitals and eight of them being Boone County residents. Of the 154 patients, 28 are in intensive care and 17 are on ventilators.
The Missouri coronavirus vaccine dashboard reports that 116,116 residents have received their first dose in Boone County and 102,469 Boone County residents have completed their vaccine doses.
Boone County has the third-largest percentage of county residents in Missouri that have received at least one dose of the vaccine with 64.3%. The largest county in the state is St. Louis County with 68.7%.
Boone County is third in the state with a reported 56.8% of residents that have completed their coronavirus vaccine doses. St. Louis County is the first county in the state with 60.4% of residents having completed the doses for vaccination. The city of Joplin has 61.3% of the population fully vaccinated.
Cole County has the second-highest first vaccination rate in Mid-Missouri with 54.5%. Callaway County is third with 50.5%.
The Columbia Public Schools reports active coronavirus and quarantine cases to their website daily.
The district reported a 232.3 14-day rate per 10,000 for Thursday. The highest the rate has been.
CPS reports 30 district facilities (15 elementary schools, five middle schools, all four high schools and six other district-wide facilities) currently have staff out because of COVID-19.
The district is reporting 70 new coronavirus cases in staff, totaling 105 cases in staff across the district. The breakdown in staff shows 48 staff members at an elementary school, 18 staff members at middle schools, 24 staff members at high schools and 15 staff members at district-wide facilities who have tested positive for COVID-19. One staff member at elementary school and two staff members at the high school level have to quarantine due to being close contact.
The district reports 34 district facilities to have students currently out due to the coronavirus. The district is reporting 20 of the elementary schools, all of the middle schools and high schools and three district-wide facilities are affected.
There are 348 students that have tested positive for COVID-19. The district is reporting 186 students in elementary, 81 students in middle school, 75 students in high school and six students in a district-wide facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.
There are 89 students who are required to quarantine due to the coronavirus. The district reports 36 elementary students are currently quarantining, nine students in middle school, four students in high school and 40 students at district-wide facilities.
Cole County reported over 140 new coronavirus cases
The Cole County Health Department reported 146 new coronavirus cases Thursday.
According to the dashboard update, there are 13,742 residential cases and 303 long-term care facility resident cases. That is 14,045 total cases in the county.
Cole County has reported 174 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began.
Cole County ranks 12th in the state for counties with the most coronavirus cases per 100,000 in the past week. Cases are up 124.8% when comparing last week to the prior week. The county has reported a 32.6% positivity test rate, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The Missouri coronavirus vaccine dashboard reports about 54.5% of the county have initiated their first dose of the vaccine and 50.3% of the county's population have been fully vaccinated.
The Jefferson City School District reported 21 new coronavirus cases in students and 11 new cases in staff members Wednesday.
The district is reporting 78 active cases in students and 44 active cases in staff.
The district is reporting 164 close contacts for students and 24 close contacts for staff.
State of Missouri reporting over 12,500 new coronavirus cases
The state of Missouri reported 15,596 new and probable coronavirus cases Thursday.
The state of Missouri’s daily average of new coronavirus cases has gone back up to an 8,584 seven-day average (60,089 confirmed cases from the previous week of reporting) as the state reports new coronavirus cases across the state according to state health department reporting. The daily average looks at the last seven days and doesn't account for the past three days, which will push that number even higher.
The state reported 12,520 new coronavirus cases through PCR testing and another 3,076 probable cases identified in antigen testing from Thursday, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services coronavirus dashboard. Missouri has now reported 930,832 confirmed cases for the pandemic and more than 220,626 probable cases.
The state recorded nine new deaths for 13,510 total and two probable death was added for a total of 3,077.
Missouri's new cases are up 27.5% over the past week, the state reports, as recent cases surge nationwide.
The rate of positive tests is 33.2% for the last week. A higher positivity suggests higher transmission and that there are likely more people with coronavirus in the community who haven’t been tested yet.
Cole (3), Callaway (7), Pettis(8), Osage(18), Miller (20), Boone (26), Moniteau (29) and Saline (35) counties are all in the top 40 Missouri counties in new cases per capita over the last week, according to state statistics.
The state reports that over 4.61% (a .18% increase from last reported on Monday) of vaccinated Missourians have developed COVID-19 infections. The state is reporting 6,187 new breakthrough cases for a total of 154,063 breakthrough cases out of 3,342,812 fully vaccinated people. Experts continue to tout vaccination as the best tool to fight the wave of new cases.
Still, new vaccinations have effectively stalled in Missouri, with more boosters being given daily than first or second shots. The state reported Thursday that 54.5% of Missouri residents are fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are also trending upward, with the state reporting 20% of total inpatient capacity and 22% of ICU capacity remaining. Those numbers are at 32% and 29% in Central Missouri, respectively.