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COVID-19 outbreak among high school football players leads to uncertainty in Minnesota town

The Lewiston-Altura high school principal says the cases leave the status of fall sports and back to school plans in jeopardy.

In a rare public health alert issued on Friday, Winona County Health and Human Services warned of its first documented COVID-19 outbreak, not in the town of Lewiston. 

According to the alert, if you were in attendance at any of the following events, public health officials ask that you are tested for COVID-19 and recommend that you quarantine for 14 days, even if your test results are negative. 

- Sunday, July 26, 2020, an unorganized game of basketball at “Crossings” (Crossings Center, 170 S Fremont St. Lewiston, MN 55952)

-Monday, July 27, 2020, football camp in the morning and basketball camp in the evening at Lewiston Altura High School

-Tuesday, July 28, 2020, football camp in the morning and basketball camp in the evening at Lewiston Altura High School

-Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 7 on 7’s football at Paul Giel Field in Winona.

-Wednesday, July 29, 2020, Lewiston Farmer’s Market. (There is a potentially lower risk of transmission at this event)

-Thursday, July 30, 2020 Evening basketball camp at Lewiston-Altura High School.

-Thursday, July 30, 2020, an unorganized basketball game at Crossings in the City of Lewiston.

Lewiston-Altura high school principal Dr. Cory Hanson says the outbreak involves at least six high school football players. He says the families of six players notified the school late last week, saying they were all either asymptomatic or mild cases. However, the new outbreak alert is an indication that there have now been more than seven cases tied to the events.

"Most kids are involved in just about everything, so if a kid was at one event they're probably at more than one event," Hanson said. "We get notified of some (cases) and not others. There's nothing in the protocol that requires a parent to notify us."

The district had already canceled remaining football camp and workout activities in August, but with most athletes participating in multiple sports, Hanson says it complicates additional fall sports planning.

"We have cooperatives for cross country and for soccer and for boys and girls and so now you're not just looking at one school district," Hanson said. "You're cooperating with multiple school districts to try to make that decision and that added in makes it even more difficult."

It also complicates back to school decisions. Based on state guidelines for Winona County cases, Lewiston-Altura has been considering a full return to classes for elementary and a hybrid model for high school.

"But, with an outbreak and then with anything else changing, a month is an eternity at this point in time before school starts," he said.

That puts even more pressure on students, parents and the community in the weeks to come. 

"If I want to back in school as a student or a parent, then what choices are we going to have to make to get us there?" he said. "It can truly effect, at this point in time, this close to the school year, how your school comes back, how it doesn't come back."

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