The number of active coronavirus cases in Boone County climbed Wednesday but hospitalizations dropped as the county recorded more than 90 new cases.
The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services added 91 new cases to its coronavirus dashboard, bringing the county's total for the pandemic to 27,161. The number of active cases climbed 22 to reach 536.
Boone County's average of new daily cases has been cut in half since spiking at about 70 at the end of last week, according to the dashboard. Hospitalizations are also falling, dropping to 90 on Wednesday, a decline of six from the previous day. Of those patients, 27 are in intensive care.
The number of students out of class in Columbia Public Schools because of coronavirus has been on the rise. The district reported 58 active student cases and 432 students in quarantine Wednesday, with the absences affecting nearly every school in the district.
In Boone County, 54.3% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Cole County reports another death
Cole County reported another coronavirus death Wednesday, bringing the county's total to 169.
The county also reported 29 new coronavirus cases for a total of 12,329 since the pandemic started. The county ranks 25th in new cases per capita in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. However, that doesn't include the last few days, when the county has recorded smaller totals after a jump that began in late November.
Attorney general tells Columbia Public Schools he's opened investigation after mask complaint
Missouri's attorney general escalated his battle with Columbia Public Schools over the district's mask mandate Wednesday, telling the superintendent in a letter that his office is opening an investigation into the district.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent the letter addressed to Superintendent Brian Yearwood on Wednesday, he said in a tweet. The letter follows one Schmitt sent earlier this week to districts that require students and staff to wear masks. In that earlier letter, Schmitt said a Cole County judge's ruling means districts have no power to enforce mask mandates and other coronavirus measures.
CPS has had a mask mandate in place for the entire school year. The school board has voted to approve the district's coronavirus measures.
In the Wednesday letter, Schmitt ordered the school district to immediately stop enforcing its mandate and requested emails from the school district related to his letter and to the judge's ruling. Schmitt also told the district to preserve those emails. Schmitt wrote that the letter was prompted by a parent's complaint.
Schmitt is also suing the district in Boone County court over its mask mandate. No hearings have been set in that case.
Missouri reports more than 4,000 confirmed, probable coronavirus cases
Missouri logged more than 4,000 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, continuing the upward trend in new cases over the past several weeks.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 2,861 confirmed cases for a total of 757,560 and another 1,281 probable cases for a total of 172,892 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The state reported 12 more confirmed deaths Tuesday and has logged 12,694 confirmed and 2,853 probable deaths.
Missouri is one of several states where the virus is resurgent as fall transitions into winter. The daily average of new confirmed cases has climbed above 2,000, and new cases are up more than 63% statewide, according to the health department. The rate of positive tests was at 12.8% on Wednesday.
In Mid-Missouri, Callaway and Cole counties are Nos. 24 and 25 for most new cases per capita.
Hospitalizations are trending up along with new cases, hitting their highest levels in more than two months. The state's dashboard reports about 19% of hospital capacity remaining statewide and 20% of intensive care capacity remaining.
The statewide vaccination rate is ticking up slowly and now stands at 52.1%. Most of the new shots given this fall have been boosters, according to state data. Last Friday, more than 20,000 third doses were administered, compared to about 13,000 first and second doses. About 2% of fully vaccinated Missourians have had breakthrough cases.
Attorney general asks parents to report school district mask mandates
Missouri's attorney general in a news release Wednesday asked parents to report to his office school districts that still require students to wear masks.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office said Tuesday that it had sent letters to school districts and health departments that continue to enforce coronavirus mitigation measures such as mask mandates. Schmitt cited a Cole County judge's recent ruling invalidating public health orders.
"You should stop publicizing and enforcing any such orders immediately," Schmitt wrote in the letter.
Columbia Public Schools is among the districts in the state that still require students and staff to wear masks. The measure, which has been in place the entire school year, has been approved by the elected school board multiple times, despite protests from some parents.
Schmitt has also sued the district to force it to end the mandate. No hearings have been set in that case.
The number of CPS students out of school because of an active coronavirus infection has gone up in recent days as cases statewide surge. The district reported 49 active student cases and 393 students in quarantine as of Wednesday morning.
All of the district's middle and high schools are affected by the cases and quarantines, along with 20 of the district's 21 elementary schools.