Dakota County, schools discuss COVID fight

Posted 8/11/21

Employee masking again required, delta variant will mean other changes By John McLoone The fast-spreading COVID-19 delta variant’s emergence throughout the United States is going to mean some …

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Dakota County, schools discuss COVID fight


Employee masking again required, delta variant will mean other changes

By John McLoone

The fast-spreading COVID-19 delta variant’s emergence throughout the United States is going to mean some changes for local government bodies and likely school districts.

In Dakota County, as of Monday, masks for employees were again required and plexiglass is being reinstalled in offices. The Dakota County Board of Commissioners was expected Tuesday morning to hear a report on the uptick in COVID-19 cases and what is being done to combat it.

So far, local school districts are taking a wait-andsee approach to see announcements from health agencies before any changes need to be implemented prior to the coming school year.

Hastings School District Superintendent Dr. Robert McDowell said, “I know many of you are watching the changing landscape with regard to the pandemic, and I know it is causing continued anxiety for some concerning what school will look like for our students in Hastings – masking in particular. We watch developments closely daily and communicate with Dakota County health officials regarding the latest data and recommendations. While we are planning for a continuum of contingencies, our school board is hoping for more information closer to the start of the school year and will be discussing the masking topic at their next work session. That said, it's important to note the board does not make decisions or take votes at work sessions.”

The work session was scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 11.

A memo to the Dakota County Board signals that changes could be forthcoming, as a large number of the recent cases in Dakota County have been the Delta variant.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, the delta variant is one of the most infectious respiratory diseases ever seen by scientists in her 20-year career. The delta variant is highly contagious, more aggressive and much more transmissible. Less than 1 percent of cases in Minnesota during the month of May were delta. In July that increased to 80 percent and is now the predominant variant,” the memo from county administration states.

Dakota County is now trending to the “high” range of transmissible cases.

“During July, 76 percent of Dakota County cases that were analyzed for he delta virus were positive. The CDC is tracking the total number of cases, which includes the delta variant, per 100,000 people and is recommending that everyone, including the vaccinated, wear masks indoors if the case rate is in the substantial or high category. Dakota County’s case rate as of Aug. 3, 2021 is 71.79 which is in the ‘substantial’ transmission range. We anticipate at the current trend it will be over 100 and into the ‘high’ range by the middle of next (this) week.”

Vaccinations are the most effective tool against the spread of COVID-19. The county announced earlier this summer that Dakota County had hit the target of having 70 percent of its eligible residents vaccinated.

“Layering mitigation tactics is the most effective strategy to protect our communities,” the county memo states. “In addition to masks, vaccines are proven to be effective against the delta variant because breakthrough cases are rare. Data shows that 90-99 percent of hospitalized people due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The population with the highest vaccination rates in Dakota County, residents 65 and older, represented only 6 percent of the total cases reported during the last week of July.”

Dakota County statistics indicate there have been more than 300 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the last week, bringing the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in the county to 47,845. Two deaths were attributed to COVID19 last week, bringing the overall total to 479 in the county.

The cumulative case count in Hastings is 2,569. Lakeville and Burnsville have each had more than 7,000 cases.