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Supervisors Discuss COVID-19 Impact, Vaccine

By Joseph Schany - | Sep 15, 2020

by Joseph Schany

“As of this morning we have 11 current cases of COVID-19 in Palo Alto County,” said Sarah Strohman, Community Health, providing an update to the Board of Supervisors in a regular session meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8. “Overall we have had 126 total positive cases in Palo Alto County.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Strohman met with the Board by conference call to review the current status of the illness.

“Our positivity rate did jump up a little to 8.7 percent,” Strohman said.

Supervisor Linus Solberg asked, “How do you determine that number?”

“The state actually pulls that number for us,” Strohman replied. “It’s the current positivity, so it’s the number of tests that have been done and looking at a 14-day average. The positivity rate is saying that in the last 14 days, 8.7 percent of all tests completed in Palo Alto County have come back positive.”

Strohman continued.

“As we look at Emmetsburg Community School District (ECSD), once we hit 10 percent, they are going to move to a hybrid learning model where half of the students are in school two days a week and the other half in school two separate days a week. Once we hit 15 percent, the plan, as of right now, is to move to fully online learning.”

Collaborating with ECSD, Palo Alto Community Health and school administration have outlined guidelines to follow in the event that COVID-19 exposure occurs at the schools, much like a recent event in the kindergarten.

“As of right now we still have just the one group,” said Strohman. “Part of the kindergarten class is learning from home. They had a teacher and two paraeducators come back positive so some of the kindergarten kids are quarantining at home.”

According to the guidelines released by the school for students in the high school, middle school, and grades 3-4 at West Elementary:

• All students and staff who are determined to have been in close contact (within six feet for 15 continuous minutes) would be required to quarantine at home for 14 days.  

• The remaining students would continue with in-person learning. However, masks or face coverings would be required for students. Many students already have masks/face coverings and have been wearing them in school and cloth masks have been purchased for every student in grades 3-12 and would be available for students.  In addition, E-Hawk face masks have been purchased for every student in grades 3-12.  This would provide two masks for each student.  A number of student-sized face shields have also been ordered for those students who struggle with a mask but can wear a face shield.  

• Students with medical conditions that make it unsafe to wear a mask or face coverings would be exempt from the requirement. A note from their medical provider will be required to receive an exemption.  If a student has such a condition, the note will need to be provided as soon as possible to make sure everyone is on the same page should the need arise to implement the student mask requirement.

If the case was at West Elementary Grades PK-2:

• Students in the same classroom as the positive case would begin remote learning for a period of 14 days.  

• Students in the remaining grades PK-2 would continue to learn in person.  

• This approach will be used to attempt to stop the transmission of the virus as the school feels that an effective implementation of mask requirements cannot happen with this age of younger students.

Read the full article in The Democrat.