One of hundreds wondering if they’re positive with COVID-19 is ready to be swabbed Wednesday at the Ivy Medical site in Webb City.

The line for testing winds from the Clubhouse at 115 N. Madison Street around Frisco Church to West Daugherty Street. Police had to direct traffic.

NUMBER OF COVID CASES

‘IT’S EXPLODING’

More than 1,000 absences Wednesday; Kids won’t come back until Tuesday

School has been called off the last two days of this week as administrators hope fewer students and staff are sick when they’re supposed to return to classes on Tuesday.

Webb City R-7 Superintendent Tony Rossetti reported after school Wednesday that “we eclipsed 1,000” absences. That’s about 20% of the total school enrollment.

The number of absences jumped from 662 on Monday to 800 Tuesday. 

Staff absences have also increased greatly – from 45 Monday to 67 Tuesday and 90 Wednesday.

Rossetti said the district had 10 unfilled teaching positions on Wednesday.

Kevin Cooper, the assistant superintendent for business operations, has been managing the district’s COVID-19 response.

He couldn’t attend this month’s regular School Board meeting Tuesday – because he had tested positive. From the screen in front of the room, he apologized for sniffling and at sometimes muting himself because he was coughing.

“The numbers (of students and staff testing positive and under quarantine) are going crazy right now,” Cooper told board members.

He predicted the fast upward trend would result in the need to cancel school the rest of the week.

There are so many infected now that Cooper said it’s impossible to contact those who were in close contact with those testing positive.

The Jasper County Health Department gives the district a list daily of students and staff who have tested positive.

Of those absent, Cooper said the district came back after Christmas break with 71 positive cases. As of Tuesday, there were 229 known positive cases. He said he suspected more because of home-test positive cases that hadn’t been reported to the county.

Of course, the normal cold and flu viruses are causing many of the absences.

“It’s (number of cases) exploding on us,” agreed Rossetti.

Aside from the absent students, he told board members that “if we get in a position where we have 100 people (staff) gone we aren’t going to be able to operate. I’m not sure we’re going to make it through this week.”

Cooper asked board members to offer encouragement and thanks to the district’s nurses because of the extraordinary pressure they’ve been under while determining which students to send home and which to keep in class – plus dealing with parents.

Since school reopened in August, administrators have maintained that precautions such as masks and social distancing have kept classrooms from being superspreaders. 

Now though, since the omicron variant has arrived, Cooper admitted transmission of the disease in the classroom is high.

It’s also evident, he said, that “a lot of parents are sending their kids to school sick – not just with COVID.”

On the other hand, he complimented parents for doing a good job of letting the school know when students test positive.

REVISED CARDINAL COMEBACK PLAN

Board members agreed with the administration’s handling of the situation and approved a revision of the Cardinal Comeback Plan, which had initially been adopted in August.

Following CDC guidelines is one provision of the revised plan.

Decisions about other provisions were based on a survey of staff and parental attitudes.

Testing to stay in school is popular, according to Cooper. Too bad it is no longer an option, at least until more instant tests are received.

Allowing volunteers to help at school was overwhelmingly popular, but the latest upsurge will delay that.

Opinions about the precautions to be taken are “pretty well divided down the middle,” Cooper concluded.

Board member Jason Woodmansee said he would rather be start out strict with reasonable precautions and then loosen them up.

If at all possible, Rossetti said, “I want to stay in school. We all want to stay in school.”

The newly approved Cardinal Comeback Plan, as well as results of the survey, can be viewed on the district’s website.

COVID testing site swamped

Hundreds wait in line two hours; It would go faster if everyone would register online

The number of people seeking free COVID-19 testing at a temporary drive-thru setup in Webb City increased dramatically this week.

Ivy Medical, the firm conduncting the tests,has received permission to use the city-owned Clubhouse at 115 N. Madison Street.

There was a soft opening Wednesday, Jan. 7, and manageable crowds showed up the rest of last week.

On Monday, though, number of cars lining up was a shock. By Tuesday, Webb City police officers had to help direct traffic, which was backing up on Madison Street. 

And by Wednesday, the back of the line was on Daugherty Street, with cars looping around the Frisco Church parking lots before going west down the alley and then around the Clubhouse parking lot.

There were 250 tests Tuesday and about 400 Wednesday. It was 2 p.m. Wednesday when the last car was allowed to get in line for the two-hour wait.

Swab samples were taken for both the instant antigen tests and more reliable PCR tests. Results are emailed within hours for the antigen tests and withing two days for the PCR tests.

The tests are either paid for through insurance or the federal CARES program.

The testing procedure itself didn’t take long, it’s filling out the paperwork.

Ideally, the paperwork is filled out online at the Ivy Medical.

No more cars are allowed to line up after 2 p.m. Wednesday.

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