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North Country Schools caught in the COVID surge


David Colburn

REGIONAL – After state health officials warned of a sharp spike in the number of school-based COVID-19 cases last week, the surge has arrived in the North Country and new cases have been reported in Ely, North Woods, Tower-Soudan and Northeast Range Schools .
Ely reported his second COVID case of the year in a post on the district’s Facebook page on Sunday. Superintendent Eric Erie called the case identified in the Washington Elementary the only currently “active positive test counter” in the county. Inside, masks are currently mandatory for all students, staff and visitors to ISD 696.
News of a major outbreak at North Woods School spread on social media Tuesday as parents and individuals shared notices of positive COVID tests from the district.
One person posted a text message through the school messaging system on Monday.
“We had six positive cases in the high school setting today. Masks are recommended. Students can continue to attend school. Please watch out for symptoms. Let me know if you have any questions. ”The text has been signed“ Dr. E ”, the abbreviation used by ISD 2142 Superintendent Reggie Engebritson.
Another contribution related to a letter sent home in a kid’s backpack informing a parent of a North Woods elementary school student that “a student or staff member in your child’s classroom has been diagnosed with COVID-19.” Letters like this one are part of the standard notification process the ISD 2142 uses along with its SMS system to notify parents and others of positive COVID-19 tests associated with certain grade levels. Since such a report became necessary in the last school year, the cases are routinely identified neither as pupils nor as employees.
A total of eight cases in North Woods were reported via social media contacts in connection with the official school announcements as of Tuesday afternoon.
Contacted by email on Tuesday, the Timberjay asked Engebritson to confirm the reports and provide additional information for the Tower Soudan and Northeast Range schools. Engebritson declined to provide specific case numbers but confirmed that all three schools had positive COVID tests.
“At North Woods we have 1.89 percent of positive cases; in the Northeast Range we have 0.81 percent and in Tower-Soudan we have 4 percent. TS is a much smaller population, ”Engebritson said, noting that the percentages are based on student enrollment at each school.
ISD 2142 recommends masks but does not require them, and Engbritson indicated that the policy will remain in effect for the time being. ISD 2142 will not send home students who have been in close contact with someone with a positive COVID test unless they show symptoms of COVID.
The increase can also be felt in the neighboring school district of Chisholm, where the Vaughan Steffensrud Primary School, which supplies preschool up to third grade, was closed for a 14-day reset on September 16 due to COVID-19 cases.
State health officials warned school-related cases skyrocketed during a September 15 press conference last week. State health commissioner Jan Malcom reported that about 150 new cases were reported per day the week before.
“It’s really skyrocketed this week,” said Malcolm. “More than 600 cases were reported on Monday and another 500 on Tuesday.”
State epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said she expected this worrying trend to continue.
“That’s on the way up,” she said. “We assume that it will continue to increase in the next few weeks.”
New cases in children under 10 also make up an increasing percentage of the state’s total new cases, Malcolm warned.
“The age distribution is still younger, with over 10 percent of cases in the last two months in children under 10,” she said. “Since mid-July, almost 6,500 children under the age of 10 have tested positive, 2,500 in the last two weeks alone.”
Vaccination relief for students under the age of 12 could be on the way within weeks after Pfizer announced Monday that early study results show its vaccine in children ages five to 11 years old at a dosage of one-third it is safe and effective for adults. However, the company has yet to finalize its analysis and submit the full study results to the Food and Drug Administration for review and possible emergency approval. Full approval of the vaccine in this age group could take several months.
Local situation
In a video posted on Cook Hospital’s Facebook page on Tuesday, Dr. Nick Vidor about the need to get vaccinated to combat the rising number of cases in the region.
“On the ground, we are seeing an increase in the delta variant in individuals, mainly among the unvaccinated, although we are seeing cases of vaccinated people getting COVID,” said Vidor. “The vaccination helps us to reduce the number on site. Getting the injections will reduce your risk of dying and being hospitalized by 99 percent.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available in Cook, Vidor said, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also available in the region.
“Right now, one in 500 Americans has died of COVID,” he said. “That’s a pretty blatant number for me. On site, it is best to mask yourself in public and also get vaccinated. “
Weekly government reports of new cases in the Tower and Cook zip codes monitored by Timberjay highlight Vidor’s concern about a recent surge, while other areas show a smaller surge. Cities are listed by the total number of cases reported since August 5th and the increase in cases over the past two weeks:
Tower, 47 total, 28 in the past two weeks.
Ely, 33 total, seven in the past two weeks.
Cooking, 28, 20 total in the last two weeks.
Orr, 10 total, six in the past two weeks.
Embarrassed, 9 in total, three in the past two weeks.
Sudan, 2 in total, one in the past two weeks.
The state census released on Thursday, September 16, does not include the most recent cases in schools, as reported above.
Also excludes eight new COVID cases reported by Bois Forte Health Services from September 15 through Tuesday.
The notable increases are gradually affecting some events and services in the area.
The Bois Forte Tribal Government offices in Nett Lake closed to the public on Monday. Other tribal buildings remained open but may have their own guidelines for visitors, according to a notice posted on the band’s website.
KBFT 89.9 FM, the Bois Forte Tribal Community Radio, announced that a Wild Rice Native Food Fest scheduled for September 29th has been postponed indefinitely, as have the writing workshops scheduled for Wednesday, September 22nd and Tuesday, September 28th. September are planned.
The Cook Public Library announced Tuesday that the library has closed again to the public due to the COVID outbreak. Collection from the lobby is still possible from Monday to Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Hospital visit
Local and regional hospitals are monitoring the COVID numbers and adjusting their facilities for patient visits.
According to Chief Operating Officer Julie Lesemann, visiting guidelines at Cook Hospital are tied to the transmission rate tracker of the Community Centers for Disease Control. Since the current CDC broadcast designation for St. Louis County is “high”, one visitor per patient per day would be allowed, but exceptions are allowed.
“No matter how high the transmission rate is, the doctor still has the option of changing this depending on the status of the patient, for example an intensive care patient or a patient who is at the end of his life,” said Lesemann. “All pediatric patients are allowed to have both parents / guardians. The CDC data tracker is checked daily. As a reminder: All patients and visitors in our facility must wear a face mask. “
Jodi Martin, Head of Communications at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, said, “Our team has been closely monitoring our local COVID numbers during the pandemic and will continue to make changes to our visiting policies as needed.”
In the meantime, Essentia Health has reintroduced visitor restrictions in all of its hospitals due to the increased transmission of COVID-19. In most cases, two adult visitors are allowed per patient per day. There are exemptions for children, obstetrics, and end-of-life patients, and visits to emergency rooms, pediatric wards, and neonatal intensive care units are allowed around the clock. The full visitor policy is available at https://www.essentiahealth.org/covid-19/hospital-clinic-visitor-guidelines/.


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