The number of staff in Southern Minnesota school districts who have received the COVID-19 vaccine has been increasing since the state prioritized teachers for it.
Minnesota is one of 28 states to prioritize school staff vaccinations. Nearly 25% of teachers in Minnesota have been at least partially vaccinated so far and school staff will have access to more than 18,000 doses at state vaccine sites next week. Gov. Tim Walz said this week that he predicts “the bulk of our educators” will be vaccinated by March 8, the date by which Walz expects all schools will offer some sort of in-person learning. Ninety-six percent of Minnesota school districts are also using on-site saliva testing for staff, according to the Governor’s Office.
Faribault Superintendent Todd Sesker said about 35% of Faribault Public Schools staff have been vaccinated so far. At Owatonna Public Schools, just over 60% of staff have been offered the vaccine.
“Steele County Public Health has been our major provider and a great partner,” Owatonna Superintendent Jeff Elstad said.
In Blooming Prairie, 87% of the staff have been offered the first dose of the vaccine as of Tuesday, according to Superintendent Chris Staloch. Second doses are being lined up for completion in March.
The Medford school district has seen similar numbers.
“I’m happy to announce that, mostly thanks to Steele County ... we have given the opportunity to be vaccinated to about 98% (of staff),” Medford Superintendent Mark Ristau told the school board on Tuesday.
Ristau added that there were several people who declined the optional opportunity for vaccination. Medford teachers, paraprofessionals, cooks, drivers, custodians and coaches were among those that received the first dose of the vaccine. Many have round two of the vaccine scheduled in the next couple of weeks, Ristau added.
“The good news for us right now is that we were really able to allow folks in our district to choose to get vaccinated if they want to and I think that does build some confidence in our staff,” Ristau said.
About two-thirds of Waseca school staff have been offered the COVID-19 vaccine and a small amount of staff chose not to receive it, according to Superintendent Eric Hudspith. He expects nearly 100% of staff to be offered the vaccine and have the first dose by the end of February, he said.
“That’s a celebration,” Hudspith told the Waseca School Board Thursday.
The 14-day county case rate per 10,000 people for Steele County is 29.45, Rice County’s rate is 35.58 and Waseca sits at 34.56.
Minnesota Public Radio News contributed to this report.