The State of Missouri is issuing new guidance for schools related to COVID-19. Governor Mike Parson announced Thursday that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education now advises that close contacts of a person with COVID-19 in a school setting don’t have to quarantine if all individuals were wearing masks.
The guidance applies in school districts and charter schools that have mask mandates in place and when all parties were wearing their masks correctly at the time of exposure.
“As long as they do not begin to show symptoms, those close contacts may continue to attend school in person,” said Parson.
Education commissioner, Margie Vandeven, said the procedures schools have been following as they navigate a school year in a pandemic are not sustainable. And she feels confident the new guidelines are safe.
“States like Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming have implemented a similar quarantine protocol to this, and they have not reported an increase in transmission rates in their schools,” said Vandeven.
She encourages schools that adopt the new guidelines to alert DESE if they start to see an increase in cases.
The Missouri National Education Association called the decision "dangerous" and "indefensible," according to KWMU, St. Louis Public Radio.
Parson, when discussing the new guidance for schools, stated that masks continue to be effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
But Missouri remains one of 16 states that do not have a statewide mask mandate in place.
When asked why Missouri still doesn’t have a statewide mandate, he said, “I’ve explained that, I don’t know how many times, at press conferences. You know, it’s up to the local levels to be able to do that. I mean, that’s why you have elections. That’s the purest form of democracy is for them to be able to make those decisions.”
And Parson said Missouri does have a mask mandate. He pointed to the main population centers—Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City that all have face covering ordinances in place.
Parson said one person should not be able to dictate an issue for the entire state. And he said last week’s election showed that Missourians are happy with the approach he is taking. Parson defeated his Democratic opponent, Nicole Galloway, by 57 percent.
The governor is again calling on Missouri legislators to take up legislation that would protect businesses, churches, schools, nonprofits, healthcare workers and more from liability related to COVID-19.
“None of these groups should be penalized for their efforts to respond to a declared state of emergency. They must be able to continue operating and serving the public without risk of unnecessary and senseless claims,” he said.
The proposed legislation contains three main provisions: Liability for health care workers who provide care as necessitated by a state of emergency; products liability protection for anyone who designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes or donates products to a declared state of emergency; and premises liability protection for exposure claims related to a declared state of emergency.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is also encouraging lawmakers to take up COVID-19 liability legislation.
St. Louis Public Radio, KWMU, reports that Democrat Crystal Quade of Springfield said the legislation would "encourage reckless behavior."