SDMA COVID Update 7/7/2021

SDMA COVID Update - 7/7/2021
Posted on 07/07/2021
Covid Update Image

Dear SDMA Families and Staff,

With the calendar now flipped to July, the school district has officially entered the 2021-2022 school year. The first day of classes in the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA) will be held on September 1.

The message below contains the following points of emphasis:

  • COVID-19 is still very present in Dunn County.
  • Low vaccination rates in Dunn County are limiting community protection from COVID-19.
  • Dr. Paul Horvath strongly encourages people to get vaccinated before the school year starts, or contact their primary care provider if they have questions about the vaccine.
  • With over 330 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine already administered across the country, the CDC has enough data to advise that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective (click links for CDC info).
  • Becoming fully vaccinated will reduce the likelihood of students being excluded from classes, sports, and other school sponsored activities.
  • The SDMA is not planning to require a COVID-19 vaccine for students or staff.

Thankfully, disease activity related to COVID-19 has remained mostly in check during the first month of summer break and many people have been able to experience a relatively "normal" summer. Summer school offerings in the SDMA have steered clear of COVID-19 issues, and many children in Menomonie have been able to enjoy sports and other activities with little-to-no mitigation present.

Please understand, however, that COVID-19 is still very present in our community. A recent local outbreak has resulted in Dunn County being listed as one of only four counties in the state currently experiencing a "high" level of COVID-19 disease activity, and the low vaccination rate in Dunn County puts our area at a higher risk for additional COVID-19 outbreaks.  According to the DHS website, approximately 40% of Dunn County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is well short of what is being advised for establishing effective community protection. 

From the school district's perspective, only 23% of Dunn County children ages 12-15 and 32% of Dunn County children ages 16-17 have been vaccinated. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for any COVID-19 vaccine and it sounds like it may be well into the fall before the younger students (under 12 years old) could be vaccinated. While it would be great to have a more normal school year in the SDMA, it is very possible that the anticipated spread of the Delta variant could require strict mitigation strategies - especially if vaccination percentages do not improve. Like last school year, the SDMA will prioritize keeping schools open for in-person instruction during the 2021-2022 school year, and planning is well underway. Schools across the country are anxiously awaiting updated guidance from the CDC, but it appears that many school districts will be making COVID-19 testing available and contact tracing will almost certainly continue to be employed in schools next year.

With in-person enrollment in the SDMA projected to rebound during the 2021-2022 school year, it is unlikely that 6 feet of distancing will be as common in SDMA classrooms next fall. There are currently no indications that the definition of a close contact will be modified by the CDC, so any positive cases in our schools (especially at MHS and MMS) may lead to a high number of exclusions for students who are not vaccinated. While it might be possible for excluded students to return to school after a seven-day abbreviated quarantine, the best way for SDMA students to avoid missing classes, sports, and other school sponsored activities is to become fully vaccinated (two weeks beyond the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine). Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine after a close contact unless symptoms are present.

Please do not mistake this message as the school district providing medical advice or attempting to pressure people to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The SDMA has no plans to require students or staff to be vaccinated. SDMA Medical Advisor Dr. Paul Horvath strongly recommends that those in the community who are eligible to receive the vaccine seek out opportunities to be vaccinated before the school year starts, or contact their primary care provider if they have questions about the vaccine. Medical advisors readily acknowledge that there is some risk with all vaccines, but with over 330 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines already administered across the country, the CDC has enough data to advise that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and "the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks". 

It was not an easy decision for my wife and I to have our three children vaccinated earlier this year, but we trusted our family doctor to advise us on what was best for our kids. Thankfully, all three of our children are now fully vaccinated, and we hope that this will help them enjoy the upcoming school year with as few disruptions as possible. With fall sports set to begin at MHS in a few weeks and the start of the 2021-2022 school year only eight weeks away, the window for eligible students to become fully vaccinated prior to the start of classes and activities is closing quickly. With three weeks needed between doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and two weeks beyond the second dose needed to reach "fully vaccinated" status, it takes a total of five weeks for someone to become fully vaccinated. Families wishing to consider a COVID-19 vaccine can find information about local providers on the CDC or Dunn County websites.

More information about the 2021-2022 school year will be shared later this summer in the SDMA Back-to-School Newsletter. In the meantime, best wishes on a fun, relaxing, and safe summer break.


Joe Zydowsky