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Capitol Briefs: DESE adds ‘test to stay’ option to coronavirus guidance

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) updated its COVID-19 guidance this week, introducing a new “test to stay” option for those exposed to a positive case. 

Under the updated guidelines, students, teachers, and staff can continue attending school and activities if exposed to COVID-19 if: the contact was not household exposure; the individual does not develop symptoms over 14 days of monitoring; they wear a mask and maintain social distancing; and they receive negative tests throughout the 14-day quarantine period. 

School districts have the choice of whether to adopt the new practice. The option was tested in other states last school year. 

“The frequent repeat testing would enable the prompt identification and isolation of close contacts who become infected to prevent further transmission of the virus,” the guidance said. “A routine test to stay quarantine response protocol, with daily testing in an environment where masks are consistently used, has been shown to be generally equivalent to quarantine for school-based contacts, and a safe alternative to at-home isolation.”

  • DESE published its school reopening guidance in July, outlining safety and mitigation strategies for school districts amid rising COVID-19 cases. 
  • Though vaccination, social distancing, and now quarantine procedures have been left up to individual districts, masks on public school buses are required under federal orders, even for schools that do not mandate masks in classrooms. 
  • While COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available for children younger than 12, 36 percent of Missourians between the ages of 12-17 have been fully inoculated against the virus and 41 percent have received at least an initial dose.