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New state health director concerned with Covid in schools

Two months after governor parson named a new Director of Missouri's Health Department, he's speaking to reporters about how he plans to lead the state out of the pandemic.

Posted: Sep 17, 2021 1:37 PM

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) Two months after governor parson named a new Director of Missouri's Health Department, he's speaking to reporters about how he plans to lead the state out of the pandemic.

The new head of Missouri's Health Department speaking to reporters virtually for the first time since taking office.

Touching on everything from the state's poor public health rankings, combating misinformation and his view on masks.

"Everything I have read, everything I have seen, masks work,” Donald Kauerauf, Missouri Department of Health Director said.

One of director Kauerauf's main focuses right now is kids and schools.

“It's too bad that this outbreak has gotten to a point where it has landed on the children. They have nothing to do with this," Kauerauf said. "They need to be in the classroom. They need to be in-person learning that really needs to take place."

Kauerauf says he was sad to see news this week that preliminary results from map testing last spring showed scores down across nearly every grade and all subjects. With the greatest drop in math.

"My son is a mechanical engineer and I could only have imagined if he was set behind in basic algebra and how that would have stunted his development all the way through school and even college," Kauerauf said.

He says to help school districts keep kids in the classroom and navigate confusing quarantine rules, his department is preparing a new set of guidelines.

"We have some documentation we are working on now for schools that can provide some clearer ideas that keep kids in school but allowing the locals to customize," Kauerauf said.

He says when school officials tailor their plans -- they should consider the county's adult vaccination rate and the vaccination rate of 12-17-year-olds in the district.

"I saw a tragic story in the eastern part of the state of an individual a student that wasn't vaccinated that is now in critical condition," Kauerauf said.

With the biggest increases in positivity rates seen in 0 to 17 year-olds, he says the health department has its work cut out for them. And part of that work will be convincing parents and students to get their shots.

"We didn't hesitate a second. I have a special needs daughter with some cardiac conditions and the day, we got her vaccinated. I didn't even think twice about it and for our sons. I have a son that was running at the time college track, we made sure he got vaccinated," Kauerauf said.

The director says he is also very concerned about the level of miscommunication and distrust of medical experts during the pandemic.

He says this phenomenon won't go away with covid and will likely complicate health initiatives beyond the virus's lifespan.

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