Thousands Get Covid In First Weeks Of School In Missouri

Thousands of Missouri children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the new school year began, and at least one rural school closed for cleaning after an outbreak.

A map on the state's COVID-19 dashboard breaks down virus cases among people aged 5-19 within each school district's geographic boundaries, including non-public school children who live within the district. The map shows nearly two dozen districts with at least 41 new cases over the past 14 days. Combined, those districts alone have seen 2,964 illnesses. They include 173 cases in Kansas City and 172 in St. Louis city.

Double-digit cases are reported in dozens of other districts. The total number of illnesses among students and staff statewide isn't posted on the dashboard.

A Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman said “a few” small districts in northwest and southeast Missouri have temporarily halted in-person learning because of outbreaks, but she didn't have information on how many.

The fight over mask requirements continues to cause disruptions in schools and at school board meetings. On Tuesday night, three people were issued citations after confrontations when a tense school board meeting broke up in Cass County.

Maj. Kevin Tieman, a spokesman for the Cass County Sheriff’s office, said one man was handcuffed after a woman said she had been harassed as she videotaped people after the meeting. The man and two other people received tickets but were not arrested. No injuries were reported, The Kansas City Star reported.

During the meeting, the Pleasant Hill school board approved a mask mandate after reporting 28 positive COVID-19 cases and 180 quarantines, which is more than 7% of the district’s population.

In northwestern Missouri, the South Nodaway School District closed Thursday and Friday for “extended cleaning, sanitation and ventilation," according to a letter posted on the district's website. The decision was made after 49 of students were absent due to illness or quarantine, along with three staff members. The absent students accounted for more than a quarter of all students, and over half of those in grades 7-12, the letter stated.

Classes resumed Tuesday, but with masks required through Sept. 17.

Bigger schools are feeling the impact, too. Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a news briefing Wednesday that data from the first week of school alone showed 323 county children with the virus, 51 staff cases and 1,214 students and staff in quarantine. He said those numbers were “artificially low” since second-week data wasn't available, and because only 16 of the county's 23 districts reported.

“These numbers reveal that the level of transmission among our children is much too high,” Page said.

Missouri reported 1,690 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the pandemic total to 643,183. The state also reported 154 deaths, including 132 that occurred prior to September but had not been previously attributed to the virus. All told, 10,814 Missourians have died from COVID-19.