Area schools see Covid cases after the first week back

NEOSHO, Mo. – At the end of the first week of school, 11 Neosho School District students had tested positive for the coronavirus. Nine of those cases were reported on the first day back, Tuesday, August 24th.

“That first day we were somewhat alarmed,” says Neosho School District Superintendent Jim Cummins. “And what we found out.. those are students that called in and said ‘We’re positive.’ So they aren’t connected to the school.”

“We’re pleased with the way we started. Obviously we would like to have zero cases, but the cases that we have seem to be somewhat isolated and controlled,” Cummins adds. “We continue to encourage students to get the vaccination if they can because that allows them to stay, as long as they’re asymptomatic. But I think our students and staff are doing well. I walk through the halls and I see several that are masked. We’ve tried to strike that balance between choice and safety, and so far we’ve been able to be fairly productive at it. All things considered we’re having a great start to the school year, and hope that continues.”

Newton County Health Department Administrator Larry Bergner says he would also like to see that number be at zero, but he’s also not surprised that its not.

“We expect to see positives,” says Bergner. “What we’re seeing right now is, generally speaking, those school age kids… are having very slight symptoms and they’re getting over it really quickly.”

When it comes to where students are getting the virus, neither Cummins or Bergner can say definitely where students are being exposed. But Bergner can say with a degree of confidence through contact tracing that, at least for now, transmission isn’t happening inside of school.

“Certainly the possibility exists that it could have been in the school setting. But, we can’t connect the dots,” says Bergner. “So far, after one week of school, we’ve not had any clear picture that any of the positives were exposed to it in the school setting.”

“What we’re seeing is the parents get it in the home, and then the students get it. Then they come to school because they’re asymptomatic.. turn symptomatic. And so they become a positive, and we have to quarantine those around them,”  says Cummins.

Bergner says that he expects the year to have a trajectory that looks similar to what they saw in the county last school year.

“September, October we saw an increasing numbers and as we got into late October, November, we saw a rapid decline. So I expect that we’ll have it pretty similar but with less cases,” says Bergner.

“If we can manage, like we are right now, to keep the case level low, I think we’ll be okay. I think if we see a spike in cases then we’ll be looking at other solutions,” says Cummins.

KOAM spoke with Cummins at 1:30 p.m. and with Bergner at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 1st. At the time, the district hadn’t updated numbers on their dashboard. However, those numbers were updated as of 6:00 p.m., to show 22 active cases among students and 62 students who are considered close contacts. Five additional students tested positive and 14 additional students were close contacts on September 1st alone.

Neosho COVID-19 tracker: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZTFzlWeP6X2aVJbVBzjTYzVrDDfwv4c0Scax8kqkC7U/edit#gid=0

According to Neosho’s back to school plan, masks will be mandated if positive student cases reach 7% within a school. Schools will be closed if positive student cases reach 10% within a school or if staffing the school due to positive cases becomes problematic.

Carthage

The Carthage School District reports that, as of August 27th, 10 students have tested positive and 47 students are under quarantine. The district also reports that the total number of positives since school started among students is nine — with 36 total quarantines.

Carthage COVID-19 tracker: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12N1oqUihsx8wKMm7mGOty1ckYQb0kn7G4oQ6ct2ZwgI/edit#gid=1855892859

“Some of those quarantines started before school started. So we have some students who are quarantined and positive that haven’t been to school yet. That’s why that number’s a bit different,” explains Carthage Superintendent Mark Baker.

Baker also says it wasn’t until Saturday or Sunday that any of their students had an onset of symptoms within the school year. He says all of the other students — whom are reflected in the numbers — had an onset of symptoms before the school year started.

“We’d love to have zero cases and not have the impact to students, but of course that’s not the reality at this time,” says Bryan Shallenburger with Carthage schools. “But there are some positive things that we have going for us. Having done this a year ago gives us a little more time to prepare and know what the strengths and weaknesses are of our plan. It also helps that we are now able to administer testing to students and staff if they suspect that they may have been in contact with someone. And that allows us to keep kids in school.”

Joplin

On August 27th, the Joplin School District reported that 17 students and six staff members had tested positive. They also reported that two staff members and 135 students had been placed in their “quarantine designation.”

Joplin August 27th Update

Webb City and Carl Junction

The Carl Junction School District reports that as of September 1st, three students are in isolation and 29 students are in quarantine. No staff members are in isolation or quarantine. The Webb City School District reports, as of August 27th, 14 students and one staff member had tested positive, and 33 students and one staff member were under quarantine. Administrators at both districts declined the opportunity to comment for this story.