By Dennis Minich
The Cass County Commission passed a resolution last Friday ending any COVID- related quarantines in the county, including those in schools. The order helped to clarify conflicting orders which area schools had been facing.
Prior to the commission’s vote on Friday, Harrisonville Superintendent Paul Mensching said, “I feel like a rope in a tug of war between two government entities.”
Mensching’s analogy was likely shared by many.
On Nov. 22, a Cole County judge ruled in the case of Robinson v. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that the state and county health departments had overstepped their authority with COVID-related restrictions. He ordered an immediate end to all quarantine or mask mandates. However, there was uncertainty if the order was in effect immediately.
Mensching said he was aware of the ruling, but was required to follow the directions of the Cass County Health Department which was continuing to enforce quarantining requirements, mandating students exposed to positively-tested COVID patients to quarantine for 10 days.
“The only people with the ability to enforce quarantining requirements is the health department. We met with them. Their attorney said his interpretation was the order didn’t go into effect until Dec. 22, Mensching said.
However, a parent filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office and on Dec. 9 the Harrisonville School District was sent
a “cease and desist” letter by the attorney general.
Associate Commissioner Ryan Johnson said the county commission passed a resolution as soon as possible to eliminate the confusion.
“As a matter of law, when these kinds of rulings come down, there is usually a 30- day period before it is enforced so that it
can be appealed. The attorney general would be who usually would appeal, but by his letter it was pretty clear he wasn’t
going to appeal.
“Our attorney interpreted it as not going into effect until Dec. 22, but the attorney general is sending out threatening letters, so it was important to get things cleared up as quickly as possible,” Johnson said.
Sarah Czech, the director of the health department said her office would continue to track COVID cases as it had, and will still make recommendations about restrictions, but will not give orders.
Johnson said, “What people don’t under stand is in a quarantine order, it is an order, not a recommendation. You can be arrested for violating a quarantine. What the judge has ruled and what our resolution states is the health departments don’t have the power to quarantine anyone.”
Czech said she is still concerned about the COVID cases, especially with the Delta and Omicron variants still spreading.
“COVID is still around, we are seeing a steady increase in cases. We are still dealing with Delta and we don’t even know what may happen with the Omicron. We are still monitoring cases and we will still let the schools know of exposures, we just don’t have the power to quarantine any one,” Czech said.