COLUMBIA, MO: Today Governor Mike Parson, the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education outlined new guidance for mask wearing in school. Most concerning is the recommendation that if two people wear masks and one tests positive for COVID-19 then the exposed individual needs to self-monitor only without going into quarantine.

“Redefining close contacts to mitigate the need to quarantine isn’t a safety measure, it’s semantics,” says Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) Executive Director, Bruce Moe. “This new definition contradicts recent guidance from the CDC which says plainly that, ‘the determination of close contact should generally be made irrespective of whether the contact was wearing respiratory PPE.’”

The revised guidance from the state runs contrary to MSTA resolutions that support school local school districts developing, approving, and disseminating a local policy that prioritizes the health and safety of students and employees with input from school personnel and the community. A district policy must describe the health and safety measures the district will take to respond to public health threats, including what actions the school district will take in response to a confirmed contagious disease in the district.

Kyle Farmer Senior MSTA Staff Attorney, explains that, “The CDC’s August 1, 2020, guidance on preparing for a safe return to school is explicit on how to respond to a student or staff member testing positive. The guidance says, ‘Students, teachers and staff who test positive or had close contact of the individual who tested positive should be provided with guidance for when it is safe to discontinue self-isolation or end quarantine.’ That sentence clearly indicates that staff in close contact with individuals that test positive should quarantine regardless of symptoms.”

“It is irresponsible to expect teachers and students to remain in a classroom after being exposed to COVID-19 and potentially risk infecting colleagues, parents family members and students,” says Farmer.

MSTA advocates for and empowers public educators so they can teach. The grassroots organization has more than 46,000 members across the state. The association is headquartered in Columbia, Mo., with regional offices across the state. MSTA has no national affiliation.