On Sept. 3, Perry County School District No. 32 superintendent Andy Comstock sent a seven-paragraph letter addressed to “district families” regarding 75 individuals - “staff and students” - testing positive for COVID-19. This revelation led to 500 student close contacts which are quarantined at home during the first 10 days of the 2021-22 school year.
“All of us have to cooperate to keep our kids in school; this year it’s even more important than ever for us to work together toward that goal,” Comstock wrote.
Comstock also addressed the lack of face coverings or masks being worn on school buses. “It is a federal order that all people riding public transportation must wear masks and school buses are included, “Comstock wrote. “All students and staff must wear a mask on the bus. We cannot and will not violate that federal order.”
District No. 32 bus drivers have reported up to 200 instances each day of students not wearing masks, according to Comstock.
“This unwillingness to wear masks by many on the bus has resulted in nearly 100 kids now placed in quarantine,” Comstock wrote. “If all students were masked properly in accordance with this order, nearly all of those expose on the bus would be allowed to stay in school under current health department guidance as related to close contact exposure.”
Comstock later made a plea for districtwide cooperation in contact tracing efforts.
“Remember, all of us here are doing everything we can to prevent the closure of school buildings because of low attendance,” Comstock said. “We need your help to protect your child and all of the students on our campus from the virus, and from having to miss class.”
State data shows Perry County School District No. 32 with 23-plus positive cases of COVID-19 from Aug. 18-31 for those ages 5-19 and 319 cumulative cases while zero positive cases were reported at Altenburg Public School District No. 48.
As of Sunday, Sept. 5, there are 140 active cases of COVID-19 in Perry County, according to Liz House, director of the Perry County Public Health Department. House said during the month of August there were 68 new cases among individuals 20 and younger. From Sept. 1-5, there have been a reported 35 new cases among that same age grouping.
The seven-day rolling average is 15.6. With the Sunday figures, the county is behind 105 cases. House said this means for 105 individuals the county has not completed an investigation. At this time, they are listed as active cases because the health department knows they are positive but has not completed its investigation to see if the people are eligible to be recovered yet, according to House.
Perry County ranks ninth in the state in terms of cases per 100,000 residents at 344.9, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, which can be found at health.mo.gov. The county has had a reported 66 new cases in the past week.
Nearby Madison (fifth, 488.1 cases per 100,000) and St. Francois (seventh, 443.4 cases per 100,000) counties are both slightly ahead of Perry County in the cases per 100,000 metric.
Scott County (569.5 cases per 100,000), also in southeast Missouri, just south of Cape Girardeau County, is the top-ranked county in terms of cases per 100,000 and has a reported 218 new cases in the past week.
Perry County’s positivity rate in the past week is a reported 16.82 percent, which is 20th among the state’s 118 counties and cities. New Madrid (40.87 percent), Reynolds (36.21 percent), Carter (35.29 percent) and Scott (31.73 percent) counties are all above 30 percent for positivity rate.
A total of 7,023 individuals have initiated COVID-19 vaccination in Perry County, a rate of 36.7 percent. There have been 6,141 county residents to complete vaccination, for a rate of 32.1 percent.
A total of 12,950 doses have been administered to date, including 242 in the past seven days.
Compared to adjacent counties, Perry is below most others in this area for initiated vaccination, including Cape Girardeau (44.5 percent), Ste. Genevieve (40.5 percent), St. Francois (40.2 percent), Madison (35.5 percent) and Bollinger (29.8 percent).
Statewide, a total of 52.3 percent of residents have initiated vaccination while 45.7 percent have completed vaccination. The only counties or cities reporting better than 50 percent of their residents in the completed vaccination category are Joplin (60 percent), Boone (56.4 percent), St. Louis (55.5 percent), St. Charles (53.9 percent), Kansas City (51 percent).
A total of 35 counties or larger cities in Missouri have an initiated vaccinated percentage of between 40 and 49.9 percent. Four counties in the state are below 20 percent for completed vaccination while a total of 16 counties have a percent completed at 25 or less.
Board to meet
The district’s Board of Education was scheduled to amend the “stay the course” plan which had been in place since the start of the 2021-21 school year at its Sept. 8 meeting.