Starting Friday, Faribault school employees and any adult coming into a district building will need to mask up.

Rice County’s high transmission rate is to blame for the more intensive protocols.

Masks will be continue to be recommended, but not required, for students. But that could change depending on the spread of certain influenza-like symptoms or their spread within a building.

In a message to school staff this week, Faribault Public School Superintendent Todd Sesker announced the protocols, in addition to those endorsed by the School Board.

The district’s Incident Command Committee, a group representing a cross section of district employees which has led the district’s response to COVID-19, approved the change, according to Sesker. That’s in keeping with the School Board’s endorsement of the committee as lead decision-maker regarding the pandemic.

The committee in its Aug. 12 and 16 meetings decided that the transmission level in Rice County would determine necessary protocols. As part of its recommendations, the group approved the Centers for Disease Controls transmission matrix to determine protocols, including masking. Substantial spread, with more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents requires face coverings indoor.

On Tuesday, Rice County’s case rate was 162.75, making masks a requirement for everyone 21 or older in a district building. In order for masking requirements for adults to return to a recommendation only, the case rate will need to drop lower than 50 people per 100,000.

Adult visitors to district buildings, including those attending athletic events or classes will need to be masked. Masks will be available at building entrances, said Sesker.

Changes to the masking requirement for students in middle and high school is tied to the rate of influenza-like illnesses. If the rate is above 5%, masking will be required for those students. ILI symptoms include chills, fever, headaches, sore throat, nausea, respiratory complaints, a positive COVID-19 test or throat culture that identifies the presence of influenza A.

Students in those age groups identified through contact tracing as being exposed to the coronavirus will also need to mask for 10 days.

Students up to grade 5 won’t be required to mask unless someone in their class is found to have COVID-19 or the number of classrooms in the school building grows high enough to warrant it.

According to the CDC, Rice County saw 114 cases of COVID-19 in the last week, with a positivity rate of 2.77%. Seven people were admitted to a hospital. It lists 62.1% of the eligible population (12 and older) as being fully vaccinated.

The Incident Command Committee next meets on Sept. 7.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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