The Duluth-area 14-day case rate was above 30 per 10,000 residents for the third week in a row Thursday. St. Louis County as a whole was very close to hitting 30 for the first time.

Minnesota Department of Health guidance states that if the range of 14-day case rates per 10,000 people is zero to nine, in-person learning for all students can happen.

If case rates are 10-19 per 10,000 people, elementary schools can be in person, while secondary schools would be in hybrid; 20-29, all schools would be hybrid; 30-49, elementary schools could be hybrid, while secondary schools would be distance learning; and 50 or more, all students would be distance learning.

From Sept. 27 through Oct. 10, the Duluth area's case rate was 32.7. From Sept. 20 through Oct. 3 it was 35.2 and from Sept. 13-26 it was 33.7.

St. Louis County as a whole is sitting at 29.8 in an upward trend since Aug. 16. Greater St. Louis County numbers jumped this week from 18.2 to 25.5.

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All schools work closely with county health officials as well as the Department of Health to receive guidance about when to switch models and to get more localized numbers. Proctor and Duluth secondary students have been distance learning since the beginning of the school year.

Hermantown Middle-High School students are currently in hybrid. Superintendent Wayne Whitwam told the News Tribune on Thursday he is meeting Monday with his regional health team and will get a recommendation on what model is best for secondary students in the district.

Whitwam said he is going to push to keep his students in hybrid because he’s not seeing transmission of COVID-19 in the district. He said as of Thursday, he had 46 students and staff who were distance learning for two weeks due to a close contact, but none had tested positive.

The city of Hermantown has had 11 new COVID-19 cases Oct. 16-22, according to St. Louis County data.

Mountain Iron-Buhl Schools was put on the Department of Health's list Thursday of school buildings with five or more positive COVID-19 cases in a two-week span. The school started distance learning this week with the hope of returning to in-person learning Nov. 2 after the school reported 11 cases in one week.

A school building is put on the list if it reports five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students or staff who were in a building while infectious during a two-week reporting period. The building is removed after 28 days of no new positive tests.

The Department of Health did not make any new Northland additions to its list this week. Buildings are removed from the list after 28 days of no new positive tests.

As of Thursday, eight new school buildings were added to the list for a total of 32:

  • Blaine High School in Anoka County.

  • Roosevelt Elementary School in Becker County.

  • Loyola Catholic School in Blue Earth County.

  • Chanhassen High School in Carver County.

  • Pillager Senior High School in Cass County.

  • Chisago Lakes Senior High School in Chisago County.

  • North Branch Area Education Center in Chisago County.

  • Barnesville Secondary in Clay County.

  • Horizon Middle School in Clay County.

  • Brainerd Senior High School in Crow Wing County.

  • Hayfield Secondary in Dodge County.

  • Blue Earth Area Secondary in Faribault County.

  • Albert Lea Senior High School in Freeborn County.

  • Maple Grove Senior High School in Hennepin County.

  • Park Center IB World School in Hennepin County.

  • Providence Academy in Hennepin County.

  • Isanti Middle School in Isanti County.

  • Grand Rapids Senior High School in Itasca County.

  • Roosevelt Elementary in Kandiyohi County.

  • Willmar Senior High School in Kandiyohi County.

  • Fairmont Jr./Sr. High School in Martin County.

  • Martin Luther High School in Martin County.

  • St. Paul Lutheran School in Martin County.

  • Princeton High School in Mille Lacs County.

  • Parkers Prairie Secondary in Otter Tail County.

  • Hinckley Elementary in Pine County.

  • Mountain Iron-Buhl Schools in St. Louis County.

  • Albany Area High School in Stearns County.

  • Melrose Secondary in Stearns County.

  • Rocori Senior High in Stearns County.

  • Forest Lake Area High School in Washington County.

  • Breckenridge Senior High School in Wilkin County.

From Oct. 11-17, there were 491 more positive COVID-19 cases in schools statewide, with 220 new cases among staff and 271 new cases among students. Statewide, 135 more school buildings reported at least one new case of COVID-19.

From Oct. 4-17, 394 school buildings reported one confirmed case of COVID-19, 139 reported two to four confirmed cases and 16 reported more than five.

William M. Kelley Silver Bay High School. (Steve Kuchera /
William M. Kelley Silver Bay High School. (Steve Kuchera /

William Kelley High School moves to distance learning

William Kelley High School in Silver Bay will move to distance learning starting Monday with the hope of returning to hybrid Nov. 9.

Acting Superintendent Jay Belcastro said there were two COVID-19 cases in the high school. Due to the high number of students needing to distance learn because of close contact with these two cases, the Department of Health recommended all secondary students in grades 7-12 should move to distance learning for two weeks.

Belcastro said 80 of the 150 students in the high school had close contact with the two positive cases.