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Cumulative number of infected Missouri prisoners nears 1,000

The number of Missouri prison inmates who have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic is approaching 1,000, and the number of infected prison staff has topped 300.

Data on the Missouri Department of Corrections website on Friday showed 953 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, while 340 staff members statewide also have tested positive. Just one inmate has died from the virus, a man imprisoned in St. Joseph who died in April.

The corrections department website lists 263 of the inmate cases as active, and 114 of the staff cases. The largest outbreak has been at the prison in Bonne Terre, where 288 inmates and 95 staff have tested positive. The Chillicothe Correctional Center, which houses women, has reported 252 positive tests among inmates and 27 among staff.

Corrections department spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said the number of active cases among prisoners declined by 25% in August, and only six prisoners have required outside medical treatment since the pandemic began.

Pojmann said Missouri has one of the nation’s most aggressive testing programs — more than 32,300 combined inmates and staff have been tested.

“The Missouri Department of Corrections testing rate is significantly higher than that of most other state departments of corrections in the United States, and our infection rate is lower,” Pojmann said in an email.

Information from The Covid Prison Project shows that nationally, 118,683 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus and 964 have died. Among national prison staff, the website lists 23,323 confirmed positive cases and 67 deaths.

Outdoor classes

In the St. Louis region, some private schools have moved classes outdoors in an effort to keep kids, teachers and staff safe.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that classes are now being conducted entirely outdoors at Forsyth School in western St. Louis. Half of the students in kindergarten through sixth grades attend in the mornings, and half in the afternoon. The students participate in virtual learning when they aren’t on the 4.5-acre campus.

Students bring their own camping chairs, towels or yoga mats to sit on. The school rented 13 tents that are serving as classrooms. If it rains or turns too hot or cold, indoor classrooms are available.

Dan Hildebrand, head of the school, said the increased use of outdoor space will continue after the pandemic to help teach children to be active stewards of the environment.

“Knowing my kid gets four hours of fresh air he normally wouldn’t is a blessing,” said Kristin Veldhuizen, a fourth-grade teacher at Forsyth whose son is a second grader at the school.

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