Newton County Health Department adopts changes to student quarantine policies

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – The Newton County Health Department sent out a letter to school districts in the county letting them know about a change to the quarantine procedures for students. While most districts were on board with the changes, some state officials, and some parents, were not.

The changes adopted by the Board of Health at the Newton County Health Department we’re to the quarantine requirements for students. Health Department Administrator Larry Bergner says “The CDC has guidelines, the state has adopted those guidelines, they’re simply guidelines, in my area, the data I’m looking at, what I’m hearing from the public, what I’m hearing from our school administrators, we felt like that guideline should be tailored to more of our local area.”

If a student is a close contact of a positive case, they must still quarantine at home for 14 days, however, they’re still allowed to go to school, given they follow proper guidelines. “We felt like it’s better to have the kids in school, rather than send a large majority of students home that are not going to get sick and they waste, or they don’t have access to those days of educational time.”

Both Diamond and Neosho schools adopted the policy, however, they declined to comment at this time. We reached out to parents about how they felt about the changes. One parent we spoke with told us he thinks it’s a good idea, as his son was briefly quarantined, and it was very difficult. Brandi Long told us she is not for the change, and she cited rule three in the health departments list, that while students can go to and from school and home, they should still quarantine at home for 14 days, saying ‘if you should not be out in the community, you should not be in school.’

Bergner says parents can keep their kids home if they want. “Certainly the parent has the option to hold their student home during that quarantine period, parents that don’t feel comfortable can talk to the school about doing distanced learning.”

Bergner says it’s important to remember, they can change this at any time. “Certainly as we gather data and we go forward, if we see the trend go in a bad situation where we’re getting more and more positives, especially if we start seeing our quarantined turn positive, we can always readjust back to the original CDC guidelines.”

We reached out to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. While Missouri DHSS didn’t respond to our request, DESE responded saying they expressed serious concerns about deviating from the existing state and national standards of care, however, they will allow Newton County schools to adopt this policy if they want, stating Missouri is a local control state.