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Coronavirus activity sends Solon Springs learning online

The district had five active student cases two weeks ago; this week, they had 51.

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Students in the Solon Springs School District switched to virtual learning this week following a rapid rise in COVID-19 activity.

The school closed Oct. 29 and Halloween activities were canceled, according to information sent to parents last week. Principal Holly Jones confirmed Thursday, Nov. 4, that students attended virtual classes four days this week. Wednesday, Nov. 3, was a pre-scheduled in-service day.

A letter updating families was posted to the district's Facebook page Thursday. Only five students had active COVID-19 cases two weeks ago. That rose to 51 active student cases by Wednesday, Nov. 3. The majority, 36, were at the elementary school level. Seven staff members were quarantined with active cases and another seven were quarantined following close contact with a positive case.

Seven of the eight elementary classrooms were in quarantine due to a positive student or adult case in the rooms, according to the letter. None of the middle or high school rooms were being quarantined. While the quarantined classrooms were expecting return dates between Nov. 4-8, that has been put on hold.

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The Solon Springs School Board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7 at the school. People can connect remotely to the meeting via Zoom. The board will receive an update on COVID-19 cases affecting school, discuss any change to the district's COVID-19 plan and set a return to school date.

Although classes moved to the virtual format, rapid testing for the virus remains available to students, staff and their family members at the school from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Those seeking testing are encouraged to contact district health screener Christine Nordness prior to testing at cnordness@solonk12net .

County-wide increase

Douglas County is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, according to health officer Kathy Ronchi, but the county is a couple of weeks behind other areas of the state that experienced a similar surge in October.

RELATED: COVID-19 infection rates spike in Douglas County

"We have not seen a significant increase in hospitalizations or deaths, but certainly more people are sick, which puts vulnerable people at risk," Ronchi said. "One infected person can spread the disease to multiple others in a very short period of time."

She said a portion of those are breakthrough cases, where someone who has been fully vaccinated gets the disease.

"We are learning immunity from the vaccine appears to be waning so boosters are highly encouraged, particularly with the rise in cases," Ronchi said.

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The surge in cases has led to a backlog. Contact tracers have not been able to reach out to all the close contacts of all the positive cases. Ronchi encouraged people who test positive for the virus to notify their close contacts of the exposure. Those who have been in close contact should quarantine until they can be tested five to seven days after exposure.

A common theme with new cases is people attending activities or working while symptomatic, assuming it's a cold or allergies. By the time they become significantly ill and get tested, Ronchi said, many people have been exposed. Most of those end up positive.

In addition, she said, "We are seeing many large family groups testing positive, which impacts schools."

Solon Springs is not the only district experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases. The number of positive student cases in Superior doubled from 13 to 27 between the week of Oct. 16 and the week of Oct. 23, according to the district's weekly update. The number of staff who tested positive went from none the week of Oct. 16 to six the week of Oct. 23.

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Contributed / Douglas County Health Department

According to data released by the Douglas County Health Department Thursday, one teenager has been reported to be hospitalized due to COVID. Because of the increase in cases across all age groups, masking in indoor public areas is strongly recommended.

About 71% of adults 18 and older in Douglas County have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while just over half of 12- to 17-year-olds have been vaccinated.

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Pediatric COVID-19 vaccination for ages 5-11 has begun at Essentia Health and should be available next week at the community vaccine clinic on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus, Ronchi said. The public will be notified when the start date is set.

RELATED: What to know about the COVID-19 vaccine for children age 5-11

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Contributed / Douglas County Health Department

This story was updated at 4:58 p.m. Nov. 4 with additional data from the Douglas County Health Department and at 8:44 a.m. Nov. 5 with the date and time of the Solon Springs School Board special meeting. It was originally posted at 3:48 p.m. Nov. 4.

Related Topics: CORONAVIRUSSOLON SPRINGS
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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