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To 'prevent further spread,' SE MN school closes Tuesday to prepare for distance learning

Kids at the school will move to distance learning through Oct. 19.
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Classes for preschoolers, kindergartners and first- and second-graders at a school in southeast Minnesota have been canceled Tuesday on the guidance of county health officials due to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. 

Byron Primary School, which is part of Byron Public Schools, announced that guidance from Olmsted County Public Health prompted it to temporary close to prevent further spread of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

"Today, the Byron Public Schools received guidance from Olmsted County Public Health that, based on an increased number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and contact tracing, the safest path forward is to temporarily close Byron Primary School (K-2) to prevent further spread," said Superintendent Dr. Joey Page. 

Byron Primary School is for students in grades PreK-2. All students will be off Tuesday so teachers and staff can plan for distance learning, which will begin Oct. 7 and last through Oct. 19.  

It's unclear if any students and/or staff have been infected with the coronavirus.

Byron Primary School was not identified as one of the seven schools with at least 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Minnesota Department of Health's weekly report last Thursday. The next weekly report from the state health department will be released at 11 a.m. this Thursday. 

Olmsted County, which is home to Rochester and the Mayo Clinic, has had 2,707 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Minnesota in March. That includes 17 confirmed cases in Monday's report from the Dept. of Health and 23 more in Tuesday's update. 

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Last week, the county health department reported 207 total cases, an increase from 126 the week prior. The increase of 81 week-over-week is the county's highest yet, and due to "more cases reporting that they do not know where transmission occurred," the health department suspects more widespread community transmission. 

Recent cases in Olmsted County are also trending younger. In the two-week period ending Sept. 20, 46% of cases were under the age of 30. 

In the two-week period ending Sept. 19, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Olmsted County to have 12.61 cases per 10,000 residents. Based on the criteria for different education models, that falls in line for 100% in-person instruction for elementary students and the hybrid model for middle school and high school students. 

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