COVID-19 now poses a “red level” threat to schools in Missouri as data and treatments begin to stall in multiple communities
A day after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has moved its recommended learning mode from ‘orange’ to ‘red’.
With 375 new cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks, the incidence rate is at an all-time high. To note, over 250 new cases is enough to move recommended learning to ‘red’, which means remote schooling for elementary, middle, and high schools. The 10.4% positive rate is the highest number since April, but only a number above 15% is enough to warrant remote schooling alone. The incidence rate overrides the percent positive rate as the primary metric to determine which phase the county is in.
Dr. Sanmi Areola, JCDHE director, states “Infections are growing at an alarming rate. This is not the time to attend social functions. This is the time to make good choices and be mindful of the impact on our friends, family and fellow community members.”
“If you look at trends, our students in 0-9 and 10-19 years olds: their numbers of infections have been trending down or staying stable,” Areola said. “The spread is coming from adults in the community, people 20-60 years old, from people choosing not to follow the science or public health recommendations, from people who are misleading the public.”
Areola has pointed out that students and schools have done a tremendous job throughout the pandemic of helping to stop the spread of the virus.
Data shows that mitigation effects schools have implemented thus far have worked to some degree, and the county health department is not recommending schools change how they’re currently operating, but they do need to stay vigilant. JCDHE will continue to monitor the situation throughout the pandemic.
Even the highest degree of warning from our local health department is not enough to warrant mandatory remote schooling, and it’s still up in the air whether anything will be done soon regarding these new statistics.
On the other end of the spectrum, the state of Missouri has lost the ability to test for COVID-19 in most of their retirement homes.
Regulators have suspended the lab licenses of Gamma Healthcare, which has done a majority of COVID-19 testing in the state. Workflow issues that had the potential of leading to a contamination of samples caused the suspension.
“If they do close their doors, I don’t know what we’re going to do, quite frankly,” said Nikki Strong, executive director of the Missouri Health Care Association. “It’s not as easy as we’ll just go pick up the phone and call another lab and have that lab do that. Labs across the country are overwhelmed right now.”
After going to federal court 10 days ago, U.S. District Judge Doug Harpool denied Gamma’s request, claiming it would not second-guess the regulators’ decision.
Two of Gamma’s labs in St. Louis and Tyler, Texas, still have licenses to work, and they are currently farming out work to other labs.
“Obviously this is not going to be a long-term fix,” said Jerrod Murphy, the company’s president and CEO. “We can only sustain this type of workflow for a short period of time. Our hope is that CMS will come to the table, and we can resolve the matter before we have to quit servicing these facilities.”
On a day where we judge how we’ve handled COVID-19 so far, these signs are all the more troubling. Help seems like a long way away for certain age groups during the most crucial time for our country as a whole.