JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri leaders issued new guidance loosening quarantine guidelines for statewide K-12 schools Thursday morning.
Gov. Mike Parson and state officials announced the news during a briefing at the capitol.
You can watch the full briefing in the media player below.
State education department commissioner Margie Vandeven said the current quarantining guidelines are not sustainable and that the new guidance will keep students in school.
The new rules allow students who would previously be considered close contacts to continue in-school learning so as long as they wore a mask when they were exposed to the coronavirus.
The rule stipulates that if a student was not properly wearing a mask when they were exposed, they will still have to quarantine for 14 days.
"This new guidance applies if a district or charter school has a mask mandate on place and all individuals are wearing their mask correctly during the time of exposure," Gov. Parson said.
Previous state guidance called for all students and staff to quarantine after being determined a close contact regardless of mask usage.
A press release from Gov. Parson's office said recently, multiple schools have had to move learning online because of virus-related staffing shortages.
"The large number of students and school staff members quarantined in recent weeks has presented a significant strain for educators, school leaders, and Missouri families alike," the press release stated.
Rachel Orscheln with Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital said secondary transmission of the virus among students is low.
"We have also learned that young children transmit the virus less often then adolescents and adults," she said. "The school environment has not contributed substantially to the novel coronavirus."
The education commissioner said Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming have already enacted similar guidance.
Governor calls for Missourians to wear masks, falsely claims state is under mask mandate
The governor called for all Missourians to do their part during the pandemic to limit the spread of COVID-19. He also falsely claimed the state is under a mask mandate.
Parson asked state residents to continue social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask, an appeal he's made to Missourians throughout the pandemic.
"The reality is we cannot keep doing the same things we've been doing," Parson said.
When asked if the state would enact a mask mandate, the governor pushed back and claimed many residents are currently under local mask rules and that the state is under a mandate by proxy.
As of Thursday, many counties and cities have not approved masking rules. Columbia, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Kansas City, Jackson County and Springfield have mask orders in effect.
On Tuesday, the Audrain County Health Department announced a mask advisory because of a recent spike in coronavirus cases.
Pfizer official gives update on vaccine
Christine Smith, Vice President of Biotherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences for Pfizer, provided details about the current vaccine candidate it's producing, which could be approved before the end of the year.
Smith said the phase three trial has been higher than 95% in stopping the virus. She included 43,000 have participated in the vaccine trial and 39,000 of those people received a second dose of the vaccine.
The spokeswoman said the next step for the process will be releasing safety data, then issuing an emergency use authorization to the FDA.
State health department director Dr. Randall Williams said on Tuesday the vaccine could be available in the next four-five weeks.
Parson expands special session
Gov. Mike Parson expanded the current special session to include legislation liability protection during the pandemic.
Parson said he is seeking legislation that would reduce lawsuits filed against healthcare providers, businesses and manufacturers working to fight the pandemic.
"[Workers] should not have to worry about facing lawsuits for simply doing their jobs," Parson said.
The session was called initially with a narrow focus on a budget for about $1.3 billion in CARES Act funding. Wednesday, the state House of Representatives approved the budget and sent it to the state Senate.