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Health officials update data guiding Minnesota school decisions for fall

Under the latest data, 27 Minnesota counties would fall under a different set of recommended learning guidelines compared to last week.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has released updated data to help guide school districts in making their reopening decisions for fall.

Under the latest numbers, 27 Minnesota counties would fall under a different set of recommended learning guidelines compared to last week. Seven counties would move into a category with greater recommended distance learning, while 20 counties would have fewer recommended restrictions.

The data, released weekly on Thursdays, calculates 14-day COVID-19 case rates in every Minnesota county. The latest data shows the average case rates from July 12 to 25.

The newly released data shows no Minnesota county would fall under the state's recommendations for full distance learning, compared to three counties in that category last week. Also, 46 of the state's 87 counties would fall into the lowest category, where full in-person instruction would be considered feasible.

State officials have emphasized this data alone does not automatically determine the learning plan for a particular county or school district, but is meant as a first step in each district's decision-making process.

According to the Safe Learning Plan revealed by Gov. Tim Walz last week, the county case data leads to five recommended learning models:

  • 0-9 cases per 10,000: In-person learning for all students
  • 10-19 cases per 10,000: In-person learning for elementary students, hybrid learning for secondary students
  • 20-29 cases per 10,000: Hybrid learning for all students
  • 30-49 cases per 10,000: Hybrid learning for elementary students, distance learning for secondary students
  • 50 or more cases per 10,000: Distance learning for all students

After reviewing the county data, the next steps in the Safe Learning Plan call for districts to consult with health officials about the "local epidemiology behind county-level data to assess whether increases or higher numbers of cases are likely the result of isolated outbreaks or whether they may be indicative of more widespread community transmission." 

Districts are then asked to evaluate their ability to implement best health practices for any learning plan. State officials acknowledged in their Thursday news conference that some rural Minnesota districts may not have facilities adequate for maintaining public health guidance.