Faribault and Martin County health officials are unsure if an Aug. 9 party of some 200 underage drinkers will result in an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
However, the huge party has affected how classes will be conducted at Blue Earth Area (BEA) High School when students in grades 8 through 12 start the year.
During a special meeting held Monday, School Board members approved the hybrid plan — combining online and in-person learning — while maintaining a 50 percent capacity and social distancing at the high school.
District officials say there has been a spike in COVID cases and that impacted their decision to limit in-person learning until Sept. 21.
Chera Sevcik, community health services administrator for Martin and Faribault County Human Services, says many of the party-goers will be reluctant to come forward to get tested.
“We have seen several new cases among the 14 to 21 year age group over the past few weeks,” she says. “The message we are hoping to relay to anyone who attended is to monitor for symptoms of COVID and to get tested right away if they are to develop any symptoms.”
Sevcik says maintaining a physical distance of six feet from others, wearing a mask and washing hands frequently will help stop the spread among anyone who may be asymptomatic.
“Our hope is that we can get any spread under control and stopped so schools can reopen in-person for all,” she says.
BEA’s incident command team will meet weekly and work with Human Services to determine which learning model the district will use. District officials have approved in-person learning for students in grades K-7.
Sevcik says students from neighboring counties also attended the party, so they could also be experiencing a spike in cases.
“We would not get information about cases in those counties. For this reason, it’s not possible to give an accurate number of cases associated with the party,” she says.
Authorities received a tip from a person that several vehicles were parked in the yard of a residence on 180th Street and on the roadway in front of a house on 375th Avenue.
County authorities are continuing their investigation of the party which resulted in 25 to 30 alcohol-related citations and five people being charged with possessing illegal narcotics.
Also, a person is expected to be charged for hosting a party that allowed underage consumption of alcohol.