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Virus outbreak at Missouri schools forces some to turn online

ST. LOUIS (AP) — An increasing number of coronavirus cases among Missouri children is prompting some school districts to temporarily halt in-school learning.

Data from the state health department’s website on Thursday showed hundreds of K-12 students across Missouri have been diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past two weeks. Four schools in Jefferson County, just south of St. Louis, closed this week because of widespread transmission of the virus, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Meanwhile, the Fulton Sun reported that Fulton’s middle and high schools will move to online learning Friday, with tentative plans to return to the classroom on Nov 16.

Missouri is among several Midwestern states with fast-rising COVID-19 cases. The state reported 3,553 new cases and 18 deaths on Thursday. All told, Missouri has reported 196,576 confirmed case and 3,106 deaths. The positivity rate of 15.2% is triple the benchmark recommended by the World Health Organization.

The state also set a new record for hospitalizations, with a seven-day average of 1,721 — 49 more than the record set a day earlier.

The Crystal City School District in Jefferson County shut down both its school buildings Tuesday through Nov. 17. With 12 staff members quarantined because of a positive test or potential exposure, the district could not safely cover their duties, Superintendent Matt Holdinghausen said. Forty-seven students also are under quarantine.

“I don’t think this is transmission from school, I think it’s all transmission from the outside,” Holdinghausen said. “Overall we’ve had a great year, it just happened to all come at the same time.”

Meanwhile, two grade schools in the nearby Fox School District will shut down for 10 days after more than 5% of staff members tested positive for COVID-19. One of the students out of 257 who have been attending in-person is also infected with the virus. Federal and local health guidelines recommend a temporary shutdown when positive cases reach 5% or more among adults or children at a school.

Students in the Parkway School District in St. Louis County will stay on a hybrid schedule attending two days a week in person, district officials said. A previous plan called for K-8 students to return full time on Monday.

All but one of the district’s 23 elementary and middle schools has reported at least one case of COVID-19 since reopening to students last month, according to Superintendent Keith Marty.

“While the majority of cases have been traced back to transmission outside of school, the level of illness still presents a risk to our students and staff,” Marty wrote in a letter to parents.

In Fulton, a letter to families cited an increase in the number of students and staff in quarantine as the reason for the temporary shift to online learning. Data shows the district has 14 active cases of COVID-19 and 266 people in quarantine.

“We’re having a hard time staffing everything,” district spokeswoman Karen Snethen said.

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