Missouri considering ‘test to stay’ policy, local officials weigh in

JOPLIN/NEOSHO, Mo. – The State of Missouri is considering a ‘test to stay’ option for students who are close contacts of other students who test positive for COVID-19.

According to Missouri’s Health Director, the concept of ‘test to stay’ would allow a student who was a close contact of another student who tests positive for COVID, to remain in school, so long as they received negative COVID test results. While details of the policy are still being worked out, some local districts, including Joplin, don’t think they’ll need it. Joplin Schools Superintendent Dr. Melinda Moss says “I would be doubtful that we would, simply because of the burden on our school nurses that all that additional testing would require when we really haven’t seen the school transfer that we thought we would anyway.”

Dr. Moss says the district’s current policy is actually less restrictive than the test to stay guidelines. “In that if a student was a direct contact of a positive case they could return to school immediately, provided that they were fully masked during their quarantine time.”

Moss says the district’s COVID numbers are actually lower now than they were at the start of the school year. Moss adds the current policy though is fluid, and could change if numbers change, and that could include adopting the future test to stay guidelines. “Yes, I think it is helpful because any tools that we have in our toolbox that we can choose from as circumstances change, having that flexibility is always a good thing.”

Larry Bergner with the Newton County Health Department says current policies for schools in the county are like Joplin’s and less restrictive. “In southwest Missouri, some of our jurisdictions, Newton County certainly being one of them, we allow contacts to continue to go to school anyway.”

However, Bergner agrees with moss that the test to stay guidelines could be helpful if COVID numbers should spike in the districts.

The test to stay policy is still being developed at the state level and a timeline has not yet been set for when it could be rolled out.