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More St. Louis-area schools may get rid of their mask mandates

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More St. Louis-area schools may get rid of their mask mandates

ST. LOUIS — A ruling from a judge in Jefferson City could lead more St. Louis-area school districts to end their mask mandates.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled last week that Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services regulations empowering local, unelected, health officials to impose sweeping orders like quarantines, mask mandates, and shutdowns, are unconstitutional.

“Missouri statutes give elected legislative bodies, not individual health agency directors, authority to create county-wide laws related to communicable diseases,” Green wrote.

The ruling has reignited the fiery debate about mask mandates in St. Louis County.

Area school officials are now scrambling to decipher the impact on their schools.

The superintendents of schools in the Rockwood and Parkway Districts have sent letters to parents this week saying, “No changes for now”.

Still, the letters say the ruling may impact the districts’ COVID-19 health and safety protocols, which have included quarantines and masking for much of the pandemic.

A group of 60 area superintendents that has held weekly “virtual” meetings throughout most of the pandemic has met twice this week in the wake of the ruling.

They have not released any details on potential changes being discussed.

At the beginning of the current school year, Ft. Zumwalt Schools in St. Charles County made masks optional for the district’s 17,000 students. Under the new policy, if three or more students in a class are COVID-positive, then there’s a mask mandate for that class. If more than 4% of students at any school are positive, the mask mandate becomes school-wide but not district-wide.

“We’re doing it by building,” said Supt. Dr. Bernie DuBray. “We have one building with 23 cases and one building with 11 cases. Then, throughout the rest of school district we have just less than 1% in any of the buildings. So, why would you mask up your whole school district for something that just needs to be dealt with by building?”

The district’s positivity rate is currently .006.

“I think there are districts that are watching and seeing how our numbers are going. In terms of the whole district, numbers are pretty stable. I think if people see that the numbers stay stable they make look more at our plan,” DuBray said.

None of the district’s 27 schools currently has a mask mandate.

Any changes in mask policies for other St. Louis area districts would likely take effect after the new year.

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Fauci says most states should hit omicron peak soon, Massachusetts on the downslope as wastewater data shows progress

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Fauci says most states should hit omicron peak soon, Massachusetts on the downslope as wastewater data shows progress

Most U.S. states should hit their omicron variant peak soon, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday as the Bay State and other New England states are already on the surge’s downslope.

In Massachusetts, the daily average of COVID-19 cases has dropped by 62% in recent weeks as the Boston-area coronavirus wastewater data has plunged — a signal that fewer cases are on the way.

Most states across the country should follow this trend soon, said Fauci, who is President Biden’s chief medical adviser, noting that most regions should reach an omicron peak by mid-February.

“Things are looking good,” Fauci said on ABC News “This Week.”

“We don’t want to get overconfident,” he added. “But they look like they’re going in the right direction right now.”

Fauci said he’s “as confident as you can be” about that mid-February prediction.

“You never want to be overconfident when you’re dealing with this virus … because it has certainly surprised us in the past,” Fauci said.

“But if you look at the patterns that we have seen in South Africa, in the U.K., and in Israel, and … in the Northeast and New England and upper Midwest states, they have peaked and starting to come down rather sharply,” he said. “There are still some states in the southern states and western states that continue to go up.”

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US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

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US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

WASHINGTON  — The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The department told the dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.

State Department officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.

In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of escalating tensions around Ukraine with disinformation.

The State Department added: “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”

The department’s travel advisory, which had warned against traveling to Ukraine because of COVID-19 as well as the tensions over Russia, was changed Sunday to carry a stronger warning.

“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk,” the department advised.

The travel advisory for Russia was also changed: “Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.”

The State Department would not say how many Americans it believes are currently in Ukraine.

U.S. citizens are not required to register with embassies when they arrive or plan to stay abroad for extended periods.

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U.S. draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

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U.S. draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The department told the dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.

State Department officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.

In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of escalating tensions around Ukraine with disinformation.

The State Department added: “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”

The department’s travel advisory, which had warned against traveling to Ukraine because of COVID-19 as well as the tensions over Russia, was changed Sunday to carry a stronger warning.

“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk,” the department advised.

The travel advisory for Russia was also changed: “Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.”

The State Department would not say how many Americans it believes are currently in Ukraine. U.S. citizens are not required to register with embassies when they arrive or plan to stay abroad for extended periods.

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