ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The first week of class ended with hundreds of COVID-19 cases and more than 1,000 people in quarantine across schools in St. Louis County.
"Cases, frankly, are higher than we expected," Dr. Emily Doucette the Chief Medical Office for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health told 5 On Your Side.
The report released Wednesday morning from the health department is missing information from six school districts and 109 private schools. The data compiled is enough to show how the beginning of the school year got underway.
Data from 17 of the county’s 23 public school districts and 41 of the approximately 150 private schools showed:
- 373 student cases of COVID-19
- 56 staff cases of COVID-19
- 1,318 individuals quarantined
Number of schools with cases:
- 16 schools with more than 5 cases
- 18 schools with 3-4 cases
- 212 schools with 1-2 cases
- At least 15 instances of likely in-school transmission reported to the county health department
- Some of those resulted in numerous additional positive cases
Page added there are several reasons why those numbers are likely higher.
“We know these numbers are artificially low, given that the data comes from only one week of classes, not all school districts have reported their numbers and many children being exposed to COVID are not being tested,” Page said.
Data from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health showed in the two weeks before Sept. 1, the average rate of new cases among kids 10-14 years old increased by 44%. The positivity rate was 16.2%, which is higher than the community average of 9.8%.
“This underscores the urgent need for more testing and adherence to robust prevention measures to bring transmission under control,” the health department wrote in its two-week data breakdown.
“The level of transmission among our children is much too high,” Page added.
He called on parents and school officials to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, noting that the delta variant has shown to be more easily transmissible, especially among children. He stressed the importance of wearing masks even when they’re not required, those 12 and older getting vaccinated and getting tested if exposed to the virus.
Page said some school districts have run into issues with families not cooperating health guidelines, including isolating, quarantining or getting tested when asked. A couple of examples were given in the county health department's school data report released Wednesday morning, which can be read in its entirety at the bottom of this story.
In one example, two parents tested positive for COVID-19.
He urged families to follow the direction of school officials, including teachers, administrators and health workers.
“Remember, we all have the same goal to keep our kids in school. That’s where they learn best. Keep them in the classroom. Let’s all work together to reduce COVID transmission,” Page said.
Part of that work is keeping sick children quarantined. Paul Zeigler with Education Plus, an organization which supports 60 area school districts, says quarantining is a burden on many families, but it is essential. "The Delta variant is transmitting more in students," explains Zeigler, "quarantining students that were in close contact or maybe have come in contact with someone who is covid positive, certainly that's necessary because we are seeing that transmission."
One St. Louis County school community, in particular, is dealing with a spike in COVID-19 cases. Missouri health department data shows the Hazelwood community is near the top of the state’s list with more than 80 children being diagnosed in the past two weeks.
The Hazelwood School District tracks COVID cases and quarantines on its website dashboard. Tuesday, out of nearly 17,000 students, the district has more than 800 children who are actively quarantined.
There are several other districts in the St. Louis area where hundreds of students are currently quarantined. More than 340 kids are quarantined in Fort Zumwalt, and more than 270 are quarantined in Wentzville.
Unlike Hazelwood, those districts do not have mask mandates.
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health says their strategy to limiting COVID-19 risks in schools is to encourage testing. Testing is available for free at any St. Louis County Health location Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4:30.
Read the St. Louis County Department of Public Health's COVID-19 in schools data report in the document below: