The coronavirus is hitting Northfield's Bridgewater Elementary School hard.

Northfield Superintendent Matt Hillmann and Bridgewater Elementary Principal Nancy Antoine, in a Wednesday email to parents wrote that the school has 20 laboratory-confirmed cases in the last 14 days. Bridgewater has approximately 550 students and 90 staff members.

Almost half of those cases were reported in the last two days. Three-quarters of the cases have been reported in the last seven days.

By contrast, Spring Creek elementary currently has five current cases, Greenvale Park has seven. Northfield Middle and High have 12 and 13, respectively, but their enrollment is higher at both schools. Northfield Middle has 963 enrolled, Northfield High has about 1,370. 

The district's COVID-19 dashboard can be viewed at

"The percentage of students home with influenza-like symptoms, including COVID-19, has averaged 3.51% so far this week (it was 4.18% today)" wrote the administrators. "We are averaging 6.42% of students quarantined per day this week due to close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. There is one kindergarten class that was significantly impacted and is quarantined."

The local outbreak comes as Minnesota is one of the country's worst hotspots for new COVID-19 infections. Hospital beds are filling up with unvaccinated people, and staffers are being worn down by the surge. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that she’s ready to expand access to booster vaccines to all adults by the end of the week if the federal government doesn’t act first.

The Department of Defense on Wednesday announced it's sending medical teams to two major Minnesota hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses who are swamped by a growing wave of COVID-19 patients, said Gov. Tim Walz.

The teams, each comprising 22 people, will arrive at Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital next week and begin treating patients immediately, Walz said in a conference call from the Finnish capital of Helsinki. the latest stop on his European trade mission.

“Our best defense against this is the vaccine,” Walz told reporters. He noted that Minnesota is No. 2 in the county for the number of booster shots given, behind only Vermont, and that first doses have risen 60% over the last week. “And we know that that is our way out of this. ... I need Minnesotans to recognize, as we've been saying, this is a dangerous time."

Hillmann and Antoine, in their letter, noted that while this increase in cases is a concern, the district has experience working through situations like this one and more tools to address it now than it did in the past.

"We are working in close partnership with Rice County Public Health and our district’s COVID-19 team to analyze the situation and implement appropriate next steps. We will move forward thoughtfully and diligently to protect the health and safety of our students while prioritizing uninterrupted in-person learning," they said.

To help control the spread, the district will host a recommended but optional mass testing event for all Bridgewater staff and students. No date has yet been set, though district officials plan to send out a notification when that has been settled.

"Please continue to take reasonable precautions to keep yourself and our community healthy: stay home when you are ill, wash your hands frequently, wear a face covering when in public indoor spaces, get a COVID-19 test if you have symptoms, and strongly consider getting vaccinated."

By contrast, the only Faribault schools with more than five case of the coronavirus reported as of Friday were the Faribault Middle and High. The Middle School had eight while the High School had six. The population is 778 at the Middle School and 1,105 at the High School. 

Find Faribault's COVID dashboard at

Both districts require masks for everyone above school age.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. 

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