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The Moniteau County Health Center last week detailed its COVID-19 protocol for Moniteau County schools entering the 2021-22 academic year.

The protocol, according to documents shared by the Health Center, is subject to change based on developing science around the virus and the level of exposure in the community. As of press time Tuesday, active COVID cases have climbed into the triple digits once again — there are now 112 active cases, 23 of which were recorded on Monday alone and contribute to a total of 2,404 cases since the pandemic's start. The Health Center added five new hospital admissions during the weekend, as well as the county's 34th death since March of 2020, a resident in their 80s.

An email sent by Health Center Administrator Andrea Kincaid to county school leaders Aug. 4 details that 15 of the 69 active cases at the time were children less than 12 years old. Moniteau County has remained under "Red - High Transmission" status consistently since case counts began displaying total new cases per 100,000 members of the population in a seven-day period greater than 100 and a positive COVID test percentage of greater than 10 percent in a seven-day period.

Isolation/quarantine

The Health Center, per the protocol documents, will continue to conduct contact tracing for every newly-reported case of COVID-19. A school will be notified of any known cases among students and staff and the Health Center will provide their symptom onset date, or the date of their positive test if the person is asymptomatic. That information will determine any quarantine or isolation periods and close contacts.

The Health Center continues to recommend isolation periods of 10 full days after the onset of symptoms, but will no longer follow up with the case after those 10 days to assess illness. The Health Center also no longer calls all close contacts, instead asking those who test positive to notify close contacts of their exposure themselves. The Health Center will also ask county schools to conduct their own internal contact tracing investigations.

Quarantine periods, meanwhile, continue to apply to all eligible close contacts for 14 days from the time of their most recent exposure to COVID. Exceptions for quarantine, per the document, include those who have been fully vaccinated and are two weeks past their last dose; vaccinated close contacts, who are recommended to get tested three to five days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days following exposure, or until they receive a negative test results; and those students in a classroom setting that are between three and six feet apart for 15 accumulated minutes, and in which case both parties — infected person and close contact — were wearing masks at the time of exposure.

Quarantine periods can be adjusted if approved by a school district, the Health Center said. It would be acceptable for quarantined individuals to return to classes after their 10th day of quarantine, but to wear a mask at all times until the end of day 14; or to return after the seventh day of quarantine after a negative test on or after the fifth day. In the latter example, a mask must be worn at all times until the end of day 14.

Household contacts — such as very young children with a single parent, caregivers for the elderly, or large families with small homes where one can't isolate to a bedroom — are classified as 14-day quarantines. The Health Center asserts in the document that there are no exceptions for its isolation and quarantine policies, including notes from health care providers, except in any case where an individual's physician needs them to isolate for a longer period.

Masks and events

The Health Center, per the document, supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recommendations for mask usage and restrictions at school events.

As Moniteau County was an area with substantial or high community transmission at the time the protocol document was written, the Health Center recommends — per CDC guidance — that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear masks in indoor public spaces. A federal CDC order requires masking on public and private school buses. The Health Center will also continue to strongly recommend that all unvaccinated people age 2 and older wear a mask when unable to maintain proper social distance.

The Health Center's protocol document does not recommend any occupancy restrictions for school events, but does encourage giving adequate space between event observers. The document also recommends posting signage encouraging distancing and masking that reflect current public health guidance, and recommends face masks or a plexiglass partition for staff and volunteers serving at concessions or ticket booths.

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