COVID-19 cases and our schools

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

As schools and colleges have started opening around the country, the daily news often includes reports of COVID-19 outbreaks among students — resulting in the subsequent switch to all distance learning. Understanding the requirement to not disclose private health information, I wondered both where those reports were coming from and also how our local schools will handle instances of COVID-19 infection in their school communities.

The first question has an easy answer — infections became so numerous that school districts and colleges publicly announced the changes they were compelled to make in how they deliver instruction. No doubt, social media posts of large gatherings of college students also became known to news organization.

What will the schools in Sleepy Eye do if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in their school?

That answer is that they will follow protocols from the Minnesota Department of Health in conjunction with their partnership with Brown County Public Health.

Both Sleepy Eye Public School and St. Mary’s Catholic School have notified parents/guardians that students are required to stay home when they are sick, which is also required of school staff. If a student displays symptoms of COVID-19 illness while at school, parents will be notified to come pick up their child; ill staff will be sent home.

How will families and school staff be informed of confirmed cases?

This is where health privacy laws affect what happens. Brown County Public Health is the agency that works with confirmed cases. In the case of a student with the illness, BCPH must ask the parent or guardian for permission to inform the school.

Karen Moritz, Director of Brown County Public Health said the agency will handle contact tracing, reaching out to any person a student or staff member with a confirmed case has been in contact with.

SEPS’s document for returning to school describe’s how the process will work: In cooperation with Brown County Health and Human Services, SEPS will closely monitor any developments related to COVID cases, exposures, hospitalizations, and any other scenarios that may enact change to the school’s operation. In the event that there is an increase in cases impacting the school, SEPS will coordinate with BCPH to implement the health and safety protocols to ensure the safety of the school population. This may include the closure of school facilities until they are deemed safe to reopen. It may also require an adjustment in instructional delivery.

St Mary’s will also work with BCPH. Their information for parents stated: Schools will inform families and employees of the public-health recommendations for quarantining after exposure to COVID-19.

Also: The principals will consult with the New Ulm Diocesan Superintendent before announcing short-term closures. Catholic schools will follow the New Ulm Diocesan decision on how Catholic schools will respond to any closure announced by the governor or the public school district.

The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

Brown County COVID-19 cases reach over 100

By Brown County

Public Health

August 19, Brown County reached greater than 100 cases of confirmed COVID-19 amongst residents since the first reported case in March. As of Aug. 25, Brown County has 109 cases, 9 cases in isolation and actively infectious, 98 have recovered and are considered non-infectious, and 2 cases have unfortunately been fatal.

With the end of August approaching and schools getting ready to resume, Brown County Public Health has some critically important recommendations for the residents of Brown County.

It is extremely important that everyone in the communities and especially those in the school community continue to take steps to reduce COVID-19 transmission seriously. The most critical recommendations are:

•six-foot social distancing,

•limiting children’s playdates,

•keeping children home when sick,

•staying home from work if sick,

•wearing a mask,

•diligent hand hygiene,

As always, to protect the health of our children continue to participate in annual well child checks, ensure vaccinations are up to date, make sure children are getting a well-balanced diet, at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and getting plenty of sleep.

Please be sure to talk to your children, inform them of the current circumstances, and provide support by taking the appropriate measures to protect their mental health.

These protected recommendations will be most effective when they are practiced in the workplace and schools, and in the social lives of individuals attending the school environments.

Following all of the protective recommendations is the best and most effective way to slow the spread of disease in our communities and will support our returning schools’ current plans of in person and hybrid schedules. These actions, when consistently followed by community members of Brown County will provide our school systems, children, and faculty with safety, decreased transmission, and well-being during uncertain times.

For parents of school aged children, it will be important to educate your child on notifying a responsible adult and or teacher within the school district if at any point during the day they start feeling ill. Parents should be sure to read their schools COVID preparedness plans for what to do if their child is ill. In these plans it will address the schools individual policy for screening for symptoms of COVID-19.

The school plans will provide resources to parents for determining if their child should be excluded from school based on the recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health and Brown County Public Health.

Should children meet the criteria for exclusion, parents and or guardians will keep their child home, notify the school, and connect with their healthcare provider to pursue testing.

Finally, with many unknowns in regards to schools reopening and fall viral illnesses, particularly influenza season, it will be of the utmost importance for the community members to receive their flu shots this year, and the earlier the better. Flu vaccination will be an important strategy to reduce flu burden, reduce disease transmission of influenza, and will also preserve scarce health resources for care of those infected with, hospitalized, and seriously ill from COVID-19.

Talk to your healthcare provider for information regarding vaccination for influenza. No insurance? That is fine too, call Brown County Public Health to schedule an appointment.