Health department quarantines entire BES bus route, classroom following positive COVID-19 case

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 9/3/20

BELLE — The Maries County R-2 School District was four days into their first week when Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham received a phone call at 5:30 p.m. Friday that a Belle Elementary student …

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Health department quarantines entire BES bus route, classroom following positive COVID-19 case

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BELLE — The Maries County R-2 School District was four days into their first week when Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham received a phone call at 5:30 p.m. Friday that a Belle Elementary student had tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Basham said Monday, Aug. 31, that the student’s entire classroom and those that were transported on the bus with them are now all in quarantine. While she couldn’t give an exact number, she said less than 40 students have been quarantined for 14 days.

“The district doesn’t get to decide who is quarantined,” Basham wanted parents to know. “When we say the health department will contact you, we know the information is vague, but because of HIPPA, we don’t get that information and I know that it’s frustrating to wait.”

In the district’s approved back-to-school re-entry plan, the understanding was that only those within a six-foot distance of the COVID-19 positive individual would be quarantined. However, elementary school students are together nearly eight hours a day in the same classroom. Despite the changes to the plan in the elementary school classrooms, Basham said parents have been receptive and strove to understand the health department’s contact rule. A contact is defined as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, starting two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. A contact-of-a-contact is someone who has come in contact with the person who was in contact with a positive individual for more than 15 minutes at a distance of fewer than six feet apart.

“The health department quarantined them all because they were together all day — it’s the length of contact,” Basham said.

According to the letter that went out on the Maries R-2 School Facebook Page, “no further action is required at this time if you are not contacted by the health department, but as always it is best to monitor your child for symptoms and if they exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms keep your child home, notify the school and contact your personal healthcare provider. If you have not been contacted by the health department, your child was not considered at risk as a result of this case.”

Parents should watch for symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell, fever chills, headache, muscle ache, sore throat, congestion, nausea or diarrhea. Keep your child at home if they have these symptoms.

Since this is the first case in the Maries R-2 School District, Basham says she is learning a lot and is in constant contact with the health department.

“The health department has been helpful with our questions and they get back with us quickly,” Basham said.

Students will continue their lessons through distance learning. In an effort to help parents and students continue lessons at home, the district is asking any parents who are in need of technology to contact them for a computer pick-up. They can arrange pick-up times for individuals.

For those who don’t have internet or need help finding internet access locations, they can also reach out to the school district.

“We did a survey at the beginning of the school year asking parents about internet access at home,” Basham said. “They responded with however their internet was at that time. But the internet in the area can be wishy-washy. We will do the best we can to make sure every student is reached and gets the best from their teacher.”

The district will also be providing free meals to those virtual learners who sign up from the program.

“Parents can sign up for the meal program and arrange to pick up the week’s meals one day a week,” Basham said. “Please contact the school district for information about free breakfast and lunch.”

Maries R-2 was not alone in receiving news of the first COVID-19 positive case this week. Rolla, St. James, and Newburg school districts also each had one positive case. In the Gasconade County R-2 School District, four individuals have been quarantined for being exposed to cases outside of the district, but no one has tested positive for the virus.

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