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West central Minnesota 14-day COVID-19 case rates increase, still far lower than those last fall

The state Department of Health releases a 14-day case rate for the state's counties each week, showing the number new cases per 10,000 residents over the two weeks. The higher the number, the greater the risk that COVID-19 is spreading in a community. The case rate is one factor school districts can use to decide which learning model they will use.

WCT STOCK School buses
Students walk to class after exiting Willmar school buses in this undated file photo.<br/><br/>West Central Tribune file photo

The 14-day COVID-19 case rate increased in most area counties, according to Thursday’s update from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Pope counties had increases ranging from 10.1 to 13.29 over the week before. Kandiyohi, Stearns, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties had increases in single digits. Redwood County reported no change from last week, and Meeker and Renville counties reported decreases.

Nine area counties are among 68 of the state's 87 counties with case rates less than 30. Pope and Renville counties have rates in the 30s. Just two counties in the state, Pennington and Lake of the Woods, have case rates of 50 or more.

Though they are up, the case rates are still much lower than last fall, when many counties in the state had case rates in triple digits.

School districts track positive cases and quarantine activity in their buildings and consult with public health officials and others to determine how to operate their schools during the pandemic. The case rate is one factor they may consider. The Minnesota Department of Health releases the case rate report at 11 a.m. each Thursday.

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The case rate measures the county’s number of newly confirmed cases over a two-week period per 10,000 residents. The state divides the number of new cases by the number found by dividing a county’s population by 10,000.

The state considers a 14-day case rate of 10 or higher to represent an elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission in the community, especially when the level is sustained or increases over time.

This list includes the current case rate for area counties from Feb. 28 to March 13 and how it changed from a week ago:

Separately, the Minnesota Department of Health each week also updates its list of school buildings that reported five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students or staff who were in the building while infectious during a two-week reporting period.

Area school buildings on the list are as follows: Willmar Middle School, Willmar; Minnewaska Secondary, Glenwood; BOLD Middle School, Olivia; and BOLD Senior High School, Olivia.

School buildings that have not reported a new case for 28 days will be removed. If five or more cases are reported in a school building in a subsequent two-week period, they will once again be listed.

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In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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