As Cases Increase, Courthouse Closes to Public Again
Masks Proving Effective, Schools Ease Quarantine Restrictions
While Clinton County’s total case count continues to rise, masks and other provisions are proving to be effective in local schools, as districts are now relaxing quarantine requirements in response.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the public sphere, the increase in cases is sparking signs of another partial shutdown.
According to Clinton County Health Department Administrator Blair Shock, on Tuesday, November 17, the county was up to 753 total confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic, up from 664 cases the week before. A total of 88 cases remained active. The county has also had 131 probable cases.
Clinton County has had 39 COVID-related deaths, all coming in recent months. Of those, 34 were residents of long-term care facilities.
“Our current concern is simply the high number of cases,” Shock said. “This translates to high numbers of hospitalizations and high numbers of deaths. Our hospital providers are on the brink of running out of resources in terms of staffing. There is no reserve pool of staffing to pull from. While hospitals won’t turn away patients, as the staffing-to-patient ratio degrades, we will see more deaths from a lack of needed acute care.
“We, as a society, are the only ones who can affect a change here. If we don’t decrease our case numbers, we will have another worse case scenario like occurred in New York early in the outbreak.”
Shock went on to urge the public to avoid group gatherings, recommending that people have Thanksgiving at home this year with those who reside in your home, socially distance, wear masks when in public, wash their hands, and stay home when they are sick.
“We are on the brink of a regional crisis,” he said. “We are dependent upon the public to help us avert it.”
In response to rising cases, the Clinton County Courthouse will be entering what they call Phase 0, as members of the public won’t be allowed in to conduct business inside the building. If a resident has business with a certain department, they can contact that department to see how to proceed.
On Tuesday, the commissioners issued a statement warning of the increased cases in Clinton County, and urging people to take proper measures to help counteract the spike (the full statement can be read elsewhere on this page).
Gower City Hall has also closed its doors to the public for the time, while both Plattsburg City Hall and Lathrop City Hall remain open.
While the pandemic isn’t slowing down, there was welcomed news on the education front this week, as state and local guidance on close-contact quarantine was loosened. Previously, students who came into close contact with virus carriers were required to quarantine for 14 days. Now, if the contact and the carrier were both properly masked at the time, the contact doesn’t need to quarantine.
The new guidance comes as officials say that students who come into contact with a carrier while both are masked, and are subsequently quarantined, rarely contract the virus, showing how effective the use of masks are in the school building.
“This does require the school to ensure that students and staff are wearing appropriate masks, and wearing them correctly,” Shock said. “It doesn’t apply to playground, high-exertion activities, or extra-curricular activities. Since the beginning of the school year, we have had over 1,000 quarantines due to close contact in the school environment in Clinton County. Of these, we have documented zero instances of person-to-person spread when both persons were appropriately masked.”
Lathrop R-II was quick to adopt the policy, announcing it would make the switch immediately on Monday, November 16. Superintendent Chris Fine said that their own data supports the move, as of the 375 instances students who have quarantined this year, the district couldn’t find a single case in which one of those students subsequently tested positive COVID-19. Fine added that they’ve seen little transmission of the virus within the district, but rather transmissions happen when the students are outside of school.
Fine said that the move will keep both teachers and students in the classroom and working together, and it further incentivises students and teachers to wear their masks properly and often. Superintendent Dr. Sandy Steggall at the Clinton County R-III School District said that she is going to recommend to the board during its meeting Wednesday, November 18, that the district adopt the policy, too. She said that Clinton County R-III is seeing much the same data – that students who are wearing masks at the time of contact and subsequently quarantined rarely contract the virus.
She said many officials initially thought that schools would be hot spots during the pandemic, but with masking and distancing protocols, schools have turned out to be, in many instances, safe areas. She added that if the data shows otherwise after the policy change, districts can readjust.
The East Buchanan C-1 School District is also making the switch, with Superintendent Dr. John Newell making the recommendation to the school board this past Monday.