MARYVILLE, Mo. — A declaration from the Nodaway County Commission last week exempts teachers from typical COVID-19 quarantine protocols unless they show symptoms.
Normally, when someone is designated a “close contact” of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, the health department advises that the close contact quarantine for two weeks to mitigate the chance of spreading the virus — whether or not the person shows symptoms.
But workers who have been designated “essential” are not subject to the quarantine recommendation and can continue working as long as they are asymptomatic.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency added teachers and teachers’ aides to the list of critical infrastructure workers. Although many local governments and agencies use the list for guidance, it doesn’t have the force of law.
But on Sept. 3, after consultation with Maryville R-II Superintendent Becky Albrecht and others, the county commission approved a declaration that makes all teachers within the county essential workers, following the federal guidance.
The declaration notes that teachers who are designated close contacts may return to work as long as they are asymptomatic, wear a mask or face shield and continue to follow social distancing guidelines.
The move is aimed at helping teachers stay in the classroom even if their students have tested positive for COVID-19 — a scenario in which one student tested positive, for example, could have resulted in a teacher being sidelined for two weeks, putting all their classes in limbo.
“This was a proactive, preventative step,” Albrecht told The Forum in an email.
Tom Patterson, Nodaway County Health Department administrator, lauded the decision by the commission to codify the federal guidelines.
“The County Commission should be credited for making this designation,” Patterson said in an email to The Forum. “It will help schools stay on track. … Ever since the beginning of this pandemic the Commission has met challenges and made decisions and we appreciate them for doing so once again with this.”
Although the declaration allows schools to bypass quarantine protocols for asymptomatic teachers, it does not require them to do so.
Whether to quarantine will be handled on a case-by-case basis at Maryville, Albrecht said, in collaboration with the teacher involved in any such case.