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COVID-19 outbreak comes at wrong time for BOLD/Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart dancers

A community spread of COVID-19 in the Olivia community reached the school system. Despite quarantining and a return to distance learning, the school's dance team was not able to compete in sections after some members tested positive.

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Dance Team

OLIVIA — Despite their best efforts to overcome a coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, the BOLD/Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart dance team was unable to compete in sections last weekend in Montevideo.

The decision to pull the team from section competition came down to the 11th hour after a week that was described as an emotional roller coaster for the 20 team members, including two in their senior year. The Divas are a perennial contender for state competition, and had finished their season on a high note.

“The girls did a pretty amazing job of trying to make it work and work with us,” said Derek Flann, activities director for the BOLD Public Schools .

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“To say that this week has been a rollercoaster of emotions is an understatement. These young ladies have truly shown what it means to be a team!” Coach Karen Smith posted on Facebook.

A COVID-19 outbreak in the BOLD Public Schools attributed to community spread had led the school district to return to distance learning. High School Principal Jim Menton reported on March 1 that 11 students had tested positive for COVID-19 and that about 140 students were being quarantined at that point.

Flann said the district initially decided it had to stop all extracurricular activities. It subsequently re-evaluated each team separately with some hope that the dance team could be cleared in time for section competition.

The dancers abided by the quarantine requirements, and there was hope. The school also worked with the Montevideo School Schools , host for the section event, to develop protocols to assure everyone’s safety. But testing on the eve of competition showed positive results, and the district had to keep the dancers out of the competition.

Breaking that news was difficult, said Flann, and not only for the dancers. He heard the disappointment felt by many of their supporters as well.

The COVID-19 outbreak came at the wrong time for the dancers, but its arrival at the start of the month may give the boys and girls basketball teams and the wrestling team opportunities to finish their seasons.

The school is planning to return to hybrid learning on March 17. The boys and girls basketball teams should be able to play games scheduled that week, and the wrestling team could also return to competition. The wrestlers have not qualified to advance as a team, but individuals still have that opportunity.

The absence of the BOLD/BLHS dancers at sections was certainly felt. “I think every team felt bad, maybe worse than bad for the team and the kids,” said Montevideo Activities Director Bob Grey.

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This was the 22nd year that Montevideo has hosted the sectional dance competition. With no more than 150 people allowed inside at any time, the atmosphere in the gymnasium was subdued compared to other years, he said. There’s usually anywhere from 1,700 to 1,800 people and it’s loud and active, he said.

The COVID-19 outbreak in the BOLD Schools was determined to be part of a community spread of the virus in Olivia, according to Jill Bruns, public health director for Renville County. The community outbreak followed a takeout Chinese meal event hosted Jan. 27 by service organizations at the American Legion in Olivia . The plans were for takeout only, but walk-ins were allowed into the building during the cold and there was close contact as people stood in line. Many were not masked.

Bruns said health professionals cannot blame the community spread that occurred in Olivia entirely on that one event, but they were able to identify quite a few cases that came from it. The students who have tested positive probably represent second- and third-generation infections from the start of the outbreak, she explained.

She said the outbreak is a consequence of letting down our guard. She encourages people to continue to follow social distancing and masking protocols. The health director expressed optimism that the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine will help end the pandemic soon.

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