CoronavirusEducationNewsPoliticsThe SouthSider

No plan to move Missouri teachers up in vaccine line

(AP) — Missouri has no plans to move teachers higher on the list for COVID-19 vaccinations, instead focusing on getting shots to older people and those with serious illnesses, the state’s health director said Thursday.

“Those people who are more likely to get sick, and bluntly, to pass away if they get COVID, continue to be the governor’s focus and my focus and all of our focus,” Dr. Randall Williams said in Gov. Mike Parson’s weekly media briefing.

“So the answer is that’s what’s guiding us and will continue to guide us,” Williams said.

Several states, including neighboring Kansas and Illinois, have already begun vaccinating teachers, deeming school staff as frontline essential workers. But in Missouri, teachers are classified in the state’s Phase 1-B, tier 3.

The state is currently allowing shots for those in Phase 1-B, Tier 2, which includes those 65 and older or with compromised immune systems due to illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Williams has said the goal for beginning Phase 1-B, Tier 3 vaccinations is mid- to late-April.

Five recent state teachers of the year wrote to Williams requesting that school staff members move up on the vaccine priority list. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said in a town hall on CNN on Tuesday that teachers should be moved to the front of the line.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week a roadmap for getting students back to classrooms. It said that in-person schooling could resume safely with masks, social distancing and other strategies, but that vaccination of teachers, although important, was not a prerequisite for reopening.

Missouri vaccinators have administered 940,000 doses and should reach the 1 million mark by the end of the week, Parson said. Among the recent recipients are Parson and his wife, Teresa. Parson said both received shots of the Pfizer vaccine last week in Cole County and were no worse for the wear except for sore arms.

Parson cited data suggesting that the St. Louis region was getting its share of vaccine, despite complaints from some regional leaders suggesting otherwise. He said the metropolitan area that includes St. Louis city and St. Louis, Jefferson and St. Charles Counties makes up 31 percent of the state’s population and had received 31.4 percent of Missouri’s vaccine allocation.

Parson cited vastly improving data on the coronavirus. He said the seven-day average for new cases was the lowest since June, while hospitalizations also had dropped off sharply.

The state health department reported on Thursday 718 newly confirmed cases, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 473,459. The state also reported 225 new deaths, bringing the pandemic total to 7,695.

As of Thursday night, the city of St. Louis had reported 19,675 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,456 suspected cases; the death total was at 406.

Each week the state health department conducts a review to find previously unreported deaths. This week’s review found one additional death each from July, August and October, six from November, 51 from December and 126 from January, in addition to 32 earlier in February and seven new deaths.

In suburban St. Louis, a Catholic high school has agreed to limit spectators at sports events and enforce mask wearing regulations after complaints from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The Archdiocese cited a packed gym at St. Pius X High School in Jefferson County when the boys basketball team defeated Jefferson R-7 65-55 on Feb. 12. A letter sent to parents Wednesday from St. Pius X President Jim Lehn said that although the passion to support the school’s teams was understandable, “we must work together to address concerns related to COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of our entire school community.”

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