Dropping case rates meet criteria for return to full in-person learning

by Tom Coombe
For a second consecutive week, COVID-19 case numbers in the Ely area are below the threshold that would allow for full in-person learning in school.
No new cases were reported in the last week and just two positive tests were recorded in the last two weeks, according to data released Thursday morning.
That brings the local case rate per 10,000 to 3.22, far below the 10 per 10,000 that allows for in-person learning under state health department regulations and a “restart blueprint” authorized by the Ely School Board.
For now, schools in Ely are operating with daily in-person learning in the elementary and a hybrid model in the middle and high schools.
In a Jan. 22 letter to parents, high school principal Megan Anderson noted the drop in case rate, which was at 9.66 on that date, and said “if we can maintain these numbers for a few weeks, we’ll be looking to shift back to in-person learning.”
The district’s Safe Learning Plan Advisory Council was scheduled to meet Thursday, after deadline, to go over the latest numbers and discuss recommendations from school administrators.
Under the hybrid model, students attend school two days per week, in two separate groups, with distance learning the remaining three days.
The Ely district went to a full distance learning model in late-November, after COVID cases spiked regionally and across the state, and students returned to the classroom Jan. 12.
Other than a brief period at the start of the school year, when all students were in school each day, middle and high schools students were in the hybrid model this year and elementary has been full in-person, other than the several week pause from Nov. 23-Jan. 11 that also included Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
While schools initially were guided by county numbers to determine learning models, districts now have more autonomy and local case rate data has been available in Ely for several months.
This marks the first time since October that Ely’s case rate has been below 10 for two consecutive weeks.
The number climbed form the 20s in early-November, peaking at 91.80 Nov. 27 before dropping rapidly.
It fell to 37.04 by Dec. 10, dropped under 10 Dec. 23 and has been under 10 in four of the last six weeks.
Within the school community, there are no current active cases of COVID-19 with a cumulative total of 14 for the school year.
Five school employees were also vaccinated last weekend as part of a statewide initiative to vaccinate school staff. Another 15 were scheduled to be picked this week.