SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls School District has about 14,000 students under 12 who aren’t eligible for the coronavirus vaccination and who, for now, based on the district’s draft Continue to Learn plan, won’t be required to wear a mask in school.
The district began its Continue To Learn Plan before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday it recommended that masks be required in schools for those two and up, even for those fully vaccinated. The CDC also recommends that fully vaccinated persons wear masks in indoor public settings where the COVID-19 transmission level is high or substantial. The CDC said the mask recommendations could help slow rapid pace of the spread of the Delta variant to unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people can spread the variant, the CDC said.
The Sioux Falls plan is still in draft form and as of now, does not require the wearing of masks or vaccinations in the school district. Masks would only be required on buses to comply with a federal mandate of masks on public transportation. The committee that developed the plan is taking public feedback.
As of now, there is no COVID-19 vaccine approved for persons younger than 12. Various health experts expect that a vaccine will be approved for an age segment of children under 12 this fall or early winter.
Multiple health experts and the CDC recommend masks in schools because there is no vaccine for children under 12 and because of the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
Although there is no vaccine yet approved for those under 12, the CDC and professional organizations said in April that about 80% of teachers, general school staff and childcare workers were vaccinated.
Carly Uthe, a multi-media specialist with the school district said on July 29, the district does not track how many staff have been vaccinated.
South Dakota had 87,878 students under 12 in the fall of 2020. The enrollment number for under 12 is pre-K through sixth grade. In general, 12-year-olds are in seventh grade.
Sioux Falls had 14,214 students under 12. 50 Jr. kindergarten students are included in the pre-K through sixth grade numbers.
The Sioux Falls district did not require masks in 2020-2021 but encouraged mask wearing. Officials said in several KELOLAND News stories that many of students and staff were wearing masks.
South Dakota had 135,984 kindergarten through 12th grade students enrolled in the fall of 2020 and 11,827 of them got the coronavirus, according to South Dakota Department of Health data. That equals about 8.7% of the enrolled student population.
A total of 3,930 staff got COVID-19 in South Dakota , according to the DOH.
In a July report called “Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on South Dakota K-12 education.” the department of education updated the end of May numbers to 11,860 cases in students and 3,934 in staff.
Almost 90% of South Dakota schools reported that most students were doing in-person learning during the 2020-2021 school year, according to that July report from the state department of education.
The report also listed the top 10 mitigation strategies used by schools during the pandemic. Mask wearing was not in the top 10.
Minnesota schools tended to have a mix of in in-person and online instruction depending on the level of transmission in the school and community.
North Dakota schools also had a mix of online- and in-person learning depending on decisions made at thel level.
On May 27, there were 17,430 COVID-19 cases in pre-K through 12th students in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. There were 8,817 staff cases.
On May 27, there were 10,196 cases on North Dakota students, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. The state had 2,987 cases in staff.
Minnesota had a statewide mask mandate for the entire 2020-2021 school year. North Dakota has statewide mandate for a few months.
The city of Sioux Falls had a mask mandate from mid-November to early March.
South Dakota’s increased cases and decreased cases in schools followed a pattern similar to each other.
The peak was in the week of Nov. 8-14 when 1,070 confirmed cases were reported in K-12 students and staff.
There were 15,750 active cases in the state on Nov. 8. By Nov. 14, there were 18,747 and 19,360 the next day.
Just as with increases in active cases in the state, confirmed cases in K-12 students and staff declined the same time confirmed and active cases did in the state.
Although there were cases in children, the majority of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations have been in adults over 40, according to the CDC. In South Dakota, there have been 5,511 cases in children age 0 to 9 as of July 28, according to the S.D. Department of Health. There have been 14,803 cases in those aged 9 to 19.
But health experts say the Delta variant is impacting younger persons.
In its July 27 post “5 Things To Know About the Delta Variant,” Yale Medicine cited a study from the United Kingdom that showed children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with Delta.
The Sioux Falls District is also in Lincoln and Minnehaha counties which, according to the CDC, have high transmission rates. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people where masks at indoor events in areas with high or substantial transmission rates.
The DOH lists the two counties with moderate transmission rates as of July 28.
The transmission data used by the DOH and the CDC does differ.
The DOH uses transmission levels of minimal, moderate and substantial, with substantial the most severe spread. According to the DOH website, minimal transmission is less than 10 cases per 100,000 or a minimum of one case. Moderate is 10 to 100 cases per 100,000 or a minimum of four cases. Substantial rate is 100 cases or more per 100,000.
The CDC transmission map says it uses the percent change in counties at each level of transmission is the absolute change compared to the previous 7-day period. The CDC also uses cases per 100,000 as well as other data.
The CDC uses high, substantial, moderate or low in that order of severity to describe transmission levels.