More than 2,000 students and 500-plus teachers across Mississippi have been quarantined due to coronavirus exposure.

Some schools reopened at the end of July and others at the start of August, but schools in eight counties only resumed in-person classes on Monday.

Already, 199 students and 245 teachers have been infected across 71 counties, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced that the state is going to make it easier for teachers to get tested for coronavirus, even if they’re asymptomatic, and provide emergency telehealth services for students covered by Medicaid.

Reeves, who said he is “very interested in college football happening,” told the state’s residents to “keep doing what you’re doing.”

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Schools across eight counties in Mississippi opened their doors to students and teachers on August 17. 

One day later, 2,035 students and 589 teachers were quarantined for two weeks after being exposed to the coronavirus, the local CBS affiliate WJTV reported. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that 199 students and 245 teachers across 71 counties have been infected by COVID-19. 

That’s a significant uptick from the caseload on August 14 when 39 counties of the state’s 82 counties reported that 69 students and 109 teachers had tested positive for the disease, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

But Gov. Tate Reeves said at a news conference on Monday, “It doesn’t mean they caught it there,” referring to the infection, which has sickened over 73,200 people and killed at least 2,127 across Mississippi.

He also highlighted that he is “very interested in college football happening,” the Mississippi Free Press reported.

“So what I would say to you is, keep doing what you’re doing. Wear a mask. Stay socially distanced. Do not get in large groups for social reasons,” Reeves added.

Some Mississippi schools reopened in late July, followed by others in early August, but many have yet to resume in-person instruction. Reeves has received flak from critics who believe he allowed schools to reopen prematurely, the Clarion-Ledger said.

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As schools continue to reopen, Reeves said that emergency telehealth services will be offered at public schools where students receive health insurance through Medicaid, the Mississippi Free Press reported.

“This will allow schools, even those without school nurses or school-based clinics, to access telehealth services,” Reeves said. “A physician, a nurse practitioner, or physician assistant will be able to provide remote services in schools across the state.” 

Reeves also unveiled a new policy aimed at making it easier for teachers to get coronavirus tests at state facilities, even if they aren’t displaying any COVID-19 symptoms, the Clarion-Ledger said. A drive-thru site is available in Jackson and, Dobbs said, 16 new testing teams will make their way across health departments statewide to offer free testing to teachers.

Asymptomatic teachers — or those who aren’t sure if they have been exposed as yet — need not quarantine while awaiting coronavirus test results, Dobbs added.

“We also know that testing can allow us to prevent the spread of the virus by immediately identifying and isolating known cases. As teachers return to the classroom, we want to make it simple for them to get access to testing,” Reeves said, per the Mississippi Free Press.

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