District awaits state guidance on staff vaccine mandate 

Rising case numbers, student vaccination clinics and a pending vaccine mandate for employees are among the latest developments in School District 191’s efforts to cope with COVID-19.

Reflecting rising case rates in the community, the district was informed of 150 positive cases among students over a seven-day period as of Nov. 6, Bernie Bien, the district’s lead licensed school nurse, told the School Board Wednesday, Nov. 10.

The previous seven-day total was 127, Bien said. Of the 150 cases, 106 require investigations because the students were infectious within a school building, according to Bien. The district has a mask mandate for students and staff.

“At the end of last week we had 195 students that were out due to the effects of COVID,” she said. “Now, those numbers are concerning. But I’m also here to tell you that our district is doing a good job. We are working hard to be diligent to the mitigation strategies, learning from our cases and how we can improve our strategies. And talking with (the Minnesota Department of Health) and regional support, our numbers are still in a good area. We need to be thankful and thank the community and the students and the staff, because it is hard work. It is tough.”

Among staff, the district was informed of 32 positive cases in a seven-day period as of Nov. 6, 26 requiring case investigations, Bien said. The previous seven-day case total was 26, she said.

Recent seven-day case rates across Dakota County rose from 216 to 263 to 325, Bien said. In the past week, 20 had died of COVID-19 in Dakota County, she said.

Scott County’s latest seven-day case rate was 389, compared with 221 in late October, Bien said.

The county’s largest case-affected group was children under 12, she said.

At the request of Scott County and the Department of Health, the district scheduled vaccination clinics at Eagle Ridge Middle School for county residents ages 5-11. The first clinic — for the first dose of Pfizer vaccine, which now has federal emergency-use authorization for that age group — was Nov. 18. Second doses will be given Dec. 16 from 3:30-6:30 p.m.

Out of 300 available slots, 262 had been reserved as of Nov. 10, Bien said. A parent or guardian must give permission and attend with the student, she said.

The Department of Health and Dakota County have scheduled a child vaccination clinic for Nov. 29 and Dec. 20 at Burnsville High School, Bien said. A total of 360 slots are available.

Saliva screenings for district staff members, with 325 slots available, were scheduled for Nov. 17 and Dec. 1, she said.

The district is awaiting state guidance on President Joe Biden’s nationwide vaccine requirements for employers of 100 or more. The emergency measure gives employers until Jan. 4 to ensure staff vaccinations and, after that, require weekly negative COVID-19 tests of unvaccinated employees.

The requirements have been delayed by an appellate court ruling after several Republican attorneys general and private companies challenged them.

While District 191 is awaiting state guidance, Superintendent Theresa Battle said: “I think we’re just getting ready, and we’ll let the court have its process and we’ll see.”

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