That was quick.
Less than a week after school started Sept. 8, a COVID-19 case was reported at Forestview Middle School.
Since then there have been several reported COVID cases in area schools, including Brainerd High School, where the outbreak was large enough that it forced the entire school into distance learning for two weeks.
Add to that list Garfield Elementary, Discovery Woods, Brainerd Head Start, Pioneer Elementary School in Pierz, Pillager Elementary School and in the Pequot Lakes School District as schools that,as of Thursday, had also reported positive cases.
No doubt that list will grow as the school year proceeds.
Certainly it’s surprising at first, but in hindsight it shouldn’t be. As Brainerd Superintendent Laine Larson noted after the Forestview Middle School case, “The risk of exposure for other individuals present in the building on that date is no greater than the risk of contracting the virus in the general community.”
Reports of positive COVID-19 cases in our schools -- just like anywhere else this past spring and summer -- is something that we’ll have to get used to until we have a better way to control the virus.
We also have to be ready for our kids to be put on distance learning at a moment's notice, much to the chagrin of many parents. One thing that would help in that respect is if the Brainerd School District could get its synchronized instruction system up and running district wide with cameras, microphones and other technology in place so kids are able to learn in real time. The Brainerd School Board agreed to use up to $60,000 of funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for the equipment, but to date we’ve heard little about its implementation.
This is our new normal for the interim, part of the bargain we made when we opened up schools for in-person learning, even if on a part-time basis. We agree that kids needed to be back in schools, and we applaud Brainerd Public Schools and other school districts’ efforts to minimize the impact of positive cases when they could.
While reports of positive cases in schools and elsewhere will continue, it doesn’t mean we should relax our guard by any measure. We reiterate what the Minnesota Department of Health and Brainerd School District shared as step to minimize the spread of illness:
Wear a face covering when closer than 6 feet to someone.
Wash hands often with soap and water.
Cover coughs and sneezes.
Avoid touching the face with unwashed hands.
Frequently clean all commonly touched surfaces (telephones, doorknobs, countertops, etc.).
Stay home from school, work, child care and other activities if sick and consult with a health care provider.
It's also up to students to be responsible by avoiding large gatherings, wearing masks and keeping each other safe.
This is the world we live in at the moment. We need to stay vigilant.