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Local officials weigh in on COVID-19 plans

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With the rise in COVID-19 cases—many believed to be the Delta variant— in Howell County, there are many questions as to what steps are being taken regarding the situation. The quill recently reached out to the following agencies, Howell County Health Department, City of West Plains and West Plains R-7 schools.
Chris Gilliam, Howell County Health Department Director stated that a videoconference was held this past week in which these agencies were included. Gilliam said that the health department has received documentation from the CDC offering guidance to agencies on combating this pandemic. He stated, “We are still seeing positive testing in younger children and that people are sicker that are not vaccinated.” Currently, the demographic seeing the sharpest spike in new cases are those 21-30 years of age, with 31-40 year aged residents being second with the most positive cases.
Mayor Mike Topliff said that right now one of the things being done is that the West Plains City, along with other businesses are offering incentives for employees to receive the vaccine. Topliff stated “As of right now we are not looking at a mask mandate. We are following the Health Department and CDC guidelines. The important thing to remember is if you feel uncomfortable in a situation wear a mask. Also, if a business requires you to wear a mask be respectful to that business.”
Dr. Wesley Davis also said that the schools are following the documented state guidelines. Davis stated, “One of the requirements we do know is that mask will be required to be worn by students on buses and school vehicles.”
As for buildings, there has not been a decision regarding masks.
“We know that kids learn best when in school with our teachers”, Davis said.”There is a push from the state for schools to stay open. As of this moment it is our intention to have fully face-to-face learning when we return to classes in just a few weeks.
Davis said they receive updates and information from the CDC, Health Department and Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education daily. He quoted, “Things said today could change tomorrow.”.
Dr. Lori Wilson, West Plains R-7 Superintendent sent an email to parents this past week to notify them of what is currently being planned. Lana Snodgrass, Director of Communications and Community Relations for West Plains R-7 Schools announced that at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, the school board will be meeting to discuss the mask issue. The public will be able to videoconference this open session by joining the zoom session at
https:/zoom.us/j/95921788110?pwd=aFNzcmxIZWhYRDh0RzhzUzIxQXoxZz09. Meeting number: 959 2178 8110 Passcode: 877087
Dr. Wilson be sending out an update on the issue relating to the schools on August 9.
Residents can rest assured, that the powers that be are mindful of the challenges being faced, and working diligently to ensure a swift, safe path forward.

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