By MARK EVANS
Leaders of the Ste. Genevieve R-II School District and the Ste. Genevieve County Health Department were invited to last Thursday’s County Commission meeting to air out some communication issues that had cropped up.
The meeting coincided with the county being labeled a state “hot spot” after the number of active COVID-19 cases jumped to 87, with 16 probable and a second death. The county has had 432 cases, total.
Some discord recently occurred when provisional director Jeanette Wood sent the school district a letter stating that beginning Oct. 29, the health department would no longer be able to do contract tracing for the school.
“We will no longer be providing letters to the schools for close contact information (beginning of or release from isolation), beginning October 29, 2020,” the letter stated. “The only letter we will provide, is a letter for release from isolation for a positive case.”
The next paragraph said that, “We will not be able to contact close contacts identified within the schools.”
The letter, said Dr. Julie Flieg, superintendent of schools, caught her completely off-guard.
“Is this why you’re here today?” Wood asked Flieg and Dr. Paul Taylor, assistant superintendent, “because of thus letter?”
Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said it was.
Wood said she had seen Flieg the evening before and that she had not mentioned wanting to have the meeting.
Flieg countered that, “I did not receive a phone call. You emailed me this letter. You didn’t call; you didn’t talk to me. We were sitting there, after going through a two-hour admin meeting, trying to figure out how to open school four days a week – one day virtual for our grade 6 through 12 kids. And I walk in my office and I opened that letter. I have four nurses to cover 2,000 people.”
Wood said that delays in getting the information from the schools was a big factor in her deciding to stop offering the services.
“This is what the nurse told me,” she said. “They have to wait for the school … to send the contacts.”
Flieg noted that they have to talk to each of the student’s teachers, who have to consult seating charts throughout the school day.
“So, it is a process,” she said.
Nelson didn’t accept Wood’s reasoning for dropping the service.
“But that’s your job, as I understand it,” Nelson said to Wood. “When we did our ordinance, Chapter 192.300, gives the health department the authority … you can do things with the health department that the school can’t. They’re not HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-trained. If they step across a line they can be sued. You folk know it better than they do.”
He stressed that county health departments have been given the most authority, anyway.