Monett student tests positive for COVID-19

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

About 30 high school students quarantined, including some athletes

A student at Monett High School has tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus), leading to about 30 more students being quarantined, some of whom are athletes.

Russ Moreland, Monett superintendent, said the student who tested positive was at school on Friday and was symptomatic. Upon discovery of symptoms, the student was sent home.

On Monday, the Barry County Health Department informed the district of the positive test result and began contact tracing efforts, which took about two hours and led to the approximately 30 more students being sent home for 14-day quarantines.

“The protocols we have in place kept more kids from being quarantined,” Moreland said. “We have been following seating charts and were able to pin down who was within a six-foot proximity for the 15-minute time period. If we don’t have that kind of documentation, it increases the likelihood for quarantines of an entire class or entire building.

“We are not surprised to have a positive case, and we are doing the best we can to limit exposures.”

Moreland said the contact tracing process took about two hours and involved the seating charts and high school administration reviewing security camera footage to identify who might have been affected during transitional periods.

“We are not trying to quarantine kids, but we have to do our due diligence to be accurate with the tracing,” Moreland said. “We will not quarantine someone who doesn’t need to be, but we have to cover all our bases.”

Moreland said none of the students quarantined were symptomatic, and those students are considered at low risk for contracting COVID-19.

“It’s important to note there are different measures taken for stopping the spread and stopping a quarantine,” Moreland said. “Because our students are masked during certain times of the day, that does not prevent a quarantine via contact tracing, but it can limit the spread and lower the chances of getting COVID.

“It’s a frustrating situation, and we are sending home more kids than normal. Fortunately, most of those kids that have been sent home with symptoms were for other things, but we are being cautious.”

Moreland said the district’s virtual education option is still available for those who wish to use it.

“Our stance is that it is still a family decision, and we don’t know if this will have an impact on our virtual student numbers,” he said. “We are asking parents to decide that by Sept. 11, and we will see what works best. MSHSAA has also granted allowances this year for athletes to still participate while doing virtual education. We don’t know if this will lead to a change of status for athletes, but we are hoping to know soon so we can plan accordingly.”

With this positive being the first at a large school building, Moreland said he would advise other schools to follow as many CDC and Health Department guidelines as possible.

“The number of quarantines may seem like a lot, but it’s reduced because we have accurate records of where kids were sitting, and our teachers [avoided quarantine by] working hard to maintain social distancing,” he said. “Our record-keeping was important, and a lot of our staff have taken the Johns Hopkins course in contact tracing. We have no desire to be contact tracers, but that course gave us a better understanding of how the process works and helped us put protocols in place as much as we can to prevent close contact.”

Moreland said the experience should also serve as a reminder to parents and guardians to check for symptoms at home before sending children to school.

“This is a good time to remind everyone we are emphasizing they self-check at home in the mornings for symptoms,” he said. “It’s usually the opposite and we are begging kids to be in school, but we are really encouraging people to check their kids for symptoms and to stay home if any symptoms are present.

“We are asking the community for patience and support as we work through this crazy time period.”

Roger Brock, Barry County Health Department administrator, said the 14-day quarantines apply to all close contacts, and those who live in the home with a positive case must quarantine for 14 days after the positive case’s 10-day isolation period ends.

Brock said the contact tracing process was the same as normal for the Department, despite being in a school.

“We try to run down all the direct contacts based in the information provided and move forward from there,” he said. “There’s just a lot more numbers with schools. The seating charts helped us identify those students that were within six feet for 15 minutes, and that was a helpful tool for us in communicating with the school.”

Brock said all schools in Barry County are doing all they can to cut down on possible exposures.

“Our schools, both private and public, are going above and beyond and taking all precautions and steps they can to prevent exposures,” he said. “Things like the seating charts, assigned seating on busses, limiting transition period contact time, separating lunch periods and using masking are a few of the things that help.”

Brock said practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing and masking continue to be the most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 can appear 2-14 days after exposure, and symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, or a new loss of taste or smell.

Anyone who believes they have symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home, call a medical provider and wear a mask when near anyone who does not live in the same home.

For more information about COVID-19, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus, call the Barry County Health Department at 417-847-2114 or the Missouri DHSS 24 hour hotline number at 877-435-8411.

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