Perry County Health Department Director Liz House as well as board members Sharon Unterreiner and Keith Carroll met recently with Perry County District 32 superintendent Andy Comstock and a couple of school board members to gather insight on the 2021-22 school year.
“We just kind of talked about the upcoming school year and different things,” House noted. “We talked about quarantine procedures. They have been asked a lot if they have to help us with the investigation...There’s not a local or state ordinance on masking, for example. That is up for them to decide on a school level.”
The Perry County Health Department would be available to assist the school district with any mitigating procedures, according to House.
“There are some areas of the school that are higher risk when there are a lot of students in the hallway or things like that,” House said.
Part of the discussion focused on quarantine or isolation efforts, according to House.
“Quarantine is for positives and close contacts because they’re both considered a risk for spreading infectious disease,” House said. “That is something they don’t have the authority to change.”
House pointed out the county switched from a 14-day to a 10-day quarantine policy at the start of July. The decision
“We just recently changed that from 14 days for a closed contact to 10 days based on numbers locally to allow kids to get back to school and adults to get back to work,” House said.
“If someone is a close contact and they’re not an essential worker and they’re not vaccinated, they have to quarantine,” House said.
The Centers for Disease Control and the state of Missouri both have said if someone is vaccinated “they are considered protected so they don’t have to quarantine,” House said.
The school district didn’t want to be looking up students’ vaccination records.
“We talked about them sharing seating charts and stuff like that with us, then we would let them know based on our investigation the vaccination status,” House said. “We would just tell them the kids that would not be coming back to school for a number of days.”
House said the county wants to quarantine the least number of people possible at both schools and businesses.
“We’ve seen buses be a very big place for spread, especially with a sports team that’s driving an hour,” House said. “If we don’t have a seating chart that says, ‘Liz was positive and Liz sat next to Keith,’ then we have to quarantine all of those kids because we don’t know for sure. If we have seating chart, whether it’s for a bus or a classroom or a lunchroom or something, that allows us to know for sure these kids were within six feet.”
Board member Keith Carroll said the term “flexibility” came up several times during the discussion with the school district.
County health departments may interpret the state guidelines differently, according to House.
This does allow for flexibility within each county health department, Carroll noted.
“Where there is room for interpretation we can kind of work with a business or school and identify our own level of risk and have a little bit more wiggle room in those gray areas,” House said.
One example cited was for school districts with mask mandates in place, then children were typically labeled as close contacts, the students would not have to quarantine from the classroom setting, House noted.
“They are internally considering having some sort of threshold if there is a number of students in a building (contracting COVID-19) or the cases get high enough to implement that to keep the whole school from closing,” House said.
The board discussed teaming with Perry County Memorial Hospital on completing a community health assessment. The board discussed bringing in an epidemiologist intern to assist with gathering health data. House said that process could begin as early as this fall and take several months.
Following a closed session meeting July 9, House had the interim title of her position removed. She has worked for the Perry County Health Department since June 2019.
Next meeting (subhead)
The next Perry County Board of Health meeting will take place Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 9 a.m. at the Catalyst Center for Business in Perryville.