Officials continue to monitor increasing cases of COVID-19 being reported in Eden Prairie schools but call case rates in the district “relatively stable.”
Meanwhile, students age 5 and over are now eligible for vaccines and booster shots are available to many, but Minnesota continues to struggle with some of the highest positive case rates in the country.
One year after returning all students to distance learning based on skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in 2020, Eden Prairie Schools reports 68 students and 15 staff members as COVID-19 positive over the two-week period ending Nov. 19.
Over the same two-week period in 2020, 40 students and six staff members were Covid positive, according to data on the district’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
“We are continuously monitoring the environment as it relates to COVID-19,” district representative Brett Johnson wrote in a Nov. 19 email to EPLN. “The case rates in Eden Prairie Schools have been relatively stable. The latest data indicate that we are not seeing dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases in our school community.
“As we have always done in Eden Prairie Schools, we will continue to evaluate our local context while also considering factors in the larger community.”
Johnson said that Superintendent of Schools Josh Swanson will continue to provide COVID-19 updates at regular school board meetings. The board’s next meeting is a 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22.
The City of Eden Prairie case rate of 57.9 cases per 10,000 residents as of Nov. 8 is virtually the same as it was on Nov. 9, 2020 – 56.5 cases per 10,000.
By Nov. 23, 2020, Eden Prairie’s case rate topped out at 100 cases per 10,000 before it began a significant decline. By the time students returned to school in January 2021, the rate had dropped into the low 30s.
Hennepin County and surrounding communities have closely mirrored Eden Prairie’s case rate increase. The county rate as of Nov. 8 was 60.1, Edina 49.7, Hopkins 61.2, and Minnetonka 71.4. All have seen sharp increases since Oct. 1, according to county data.
Hennepin County Public Health Epidemiology Manager David Johnson told EPLN Nov. 12 that the county hasn’t been able to pinpoint the reason for increased rates in Eden Prairie. He did say that zip code 55347 had a case rate nearly double that of other city zip codes.
At that time, Hennepin County’s Johnson said there was no evidence of “concerning epidemiological trends” in the city.
The school district has maintained that the bulk of cases showing up in the schools are the result of community spread, not from within the schools. The district did take steps in October to split 6th graders at Central Middle School into two lunch periods to allow for more social distancing.
District cases for the two weeks ending Nov. 19 break down this way:
Pre-K – 5th grade 37
6th through 12th grade 31
The total of 83 cases compares to 72 cases the previous two weeks. Cases in Pre-K through 5th grade have actually gone down overall from highs in the 50s during October. Cases in upper grades have fluctuated from the low single digits early in the school year to a high of 35 on Oct. 15.
Conversely, staff cases have increased from as low as three in early October to 15 in the most recent data.
OSHA vaccination requirements?
Eden Prairie Schools is awaiting the outcome of legal challenges to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard.
The standard, which was issued on Nov. 5, would mandate organizations with 100 or more employees to require staff members to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or of weekly testing results.
On Nov. 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a stay of the OSHA standard until a future court ruling, preventing its implementation.
If a court eventually rules in OSHA’s favor, Eden Prairie Schools is prepared to implement the standard on Dec. 6, Brett Johnson said.
The school district has not collected information on how many staff members are vaccinated against Covid-19, he said.
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