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Health officials weigh in on close contacts in school districts


As COVID-19 cases continue to rise within school districts across Mid-Missouri, health officials discuss close contacts and transmission data that could alter future CDC guidance.

The current Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidance states that if a student or teacher is within six feet of one another for more than 15 minutes they are considered a close contact. 

The CDC also states that even if students and teachers have masks on during that entire time, that is still the case. 

"Research indicates that wearing masks may help those who are infected from spreading the infection to others. However, there is less information regarding whether masks offer protection for a contact exposed to a symptomatic, or asymptomatic patient," the release said.

Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said during Governor Mike Parson's COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, that the state is completely aware that throughout Missouri due to staffing shortages of teachers and students being quarantined, that it's disruptive.

Both Dr. Williams and local health officials said they don’t believe it’s the students that are spreading the virus as much as the adults.

“We are aware of data that children just don't have either the prevalence or the infectivity in the classroom," said Williams. "And we don't understand all why that would be, but it just appears to be different.”

In Boone County health officials said cases in elementary students are increasing but it’s a different age group that they think is the main contributor. 

“It is possible that it's more so coming from parents," said Ashton Day, Columbia/Boone County Health and Human Services Health Educator. "And then the kids are getting it and spreading it or you know teachers are that age as well and so same thing.”

Dr. Williams said based off of this information it could alter how CDC looks at close contacts in schools. 

“We're asking to talk to the CDC that based on this observational data would it not make sense to look at that in a more rigorous fashion if in fact 12-year-olds in a classroom, are not like 25-year-olds at MIZZOU," said Williams. "As far as their ability to get the disease or spread the disease, and the mitigation factor.”

One Mid-Missouri school district is going against the CDC and it's local health department's recommendations.

The Boonville School District in Cooper County approved to not quarantine students who are considered close contacts.

The new policy says if a student comes into contact with a positive case inside the school, and both parties are wearing a mask, the close contact would still be allowed to attend class in-person, and would not be subjected to a mandatory quarantine.

While Columbia/Boone County Health professionals do not believe that’s that best strategy. 

“As a health, health professional I would be worried," said Day. "Just because it is not foolproof. There's so many other things that can be factored into it and so if you are exposed... and then you continue to go out and do things you could be putting a lot of other people on Jeopardy and making a lot of other people sick.”

Dr. Williams said he believes Missouri is in a great position to share this kind of data with the rest of the country based on things that are already going on and that might really change how the CDC looks at it. 

The CDC and local health officials continue to encourage everyone to wear masks, stay socially distant, wash your hands and sanitize regularly.

Education / K-12 education / Missouri / News / Top Stories / Video
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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


1 Comment

  1. “Health officials”, who are either so stupid or so corrupt that they pretend the CDC is not a paid agent of Pharma. There is no empirical evidence that any of the restrictions imposed have any effect on the spread of this virus. It is a fact that once a virus reaches the general population it has never been contained. NEVER! Any containment must occur quite early in its appearance. “Officials” and “experts” love watching the people jump through the hoops they provide. Your welfare has nothing to do with it. If it did, we would not be damaging our general health with masks, nor would we be destroying our economic, social, and psychiatric health to keep from spreading a virus that is no more dangerous than ordinary influenza.

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