HUDSON -- Hudson School District is now responsible for contact tracing within its schools, as countywide cases have risen to a point where St. Croix County Public Health can no longer provide tracing for close contacts of positive cases.

The county will inform the district of positive student cases, and the district will then inform any close contacts in the building of the case.

The Hudson School Board heard an update on the state of the pandemic in the county and the schools during its Monday, Nov. 9, meeting.

“We are looking at a dramatic rise,” epidemiologist Elle Klasen told the board.

The county had 123 new cases reported the day of the meeting, and total confirmed cases were at 2,822, up more than 30% from last week. Of those, 1,469 cases were active.

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The county’s seven-day case average per 100,000 people was 83.9, putting it well into the red, uncontrolled spread level in the Harvard metric, which starts at 25.

The rates mean the county is looking at a thousand new cases by the Monday of Thanksgiving.

“Which does paint a troubling picture for the status of COVID in the county,” Klasen said.

The Hudson School District has seen 103 positive cases since the start of school, 66 of those students and 37 staff. Currently, there are 19 active cases — eight at the high school, four at the middle school and seven in the elementaries.

The majority of infections among school-aged children have come from household spread, Klasen said. The county is not seeing positives multiple in the school system the way it is happening in households.

The schools are following health and safety guidelines, and the data shows those efforts are working, Klasen said.

“That’s why we encourage those basic messages to be followed everywhere to help slow the spread -- masking, social distancing, washing hands,” she said.

That does not mean that schools are not a concern. Klasen said due to the incredible number of cases in the community, officials need to be careful saying anything is not a risk factor.

“Every decision anyone makes, whether it’s in regards to school, whether it's in regards to having Thanksgiving with a big group of people, all of these decisions impact the spread of COVID,” Klasen said.

Slowing the spread is going to take the effort of everyone, Superintendent Nick Ouellette said. The district will be sending a newsletter addressing that, asking people to limit family gatherings this holiday season and take an “all hands on deck approach” to continue in-person instruction.

Board members also emphasized the need of the community at large to take preventative measures against COVID-19 to keep kids in school.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where we have to close our schools because people are not doing the responsible things,” Johnson said.

The district is at the two-week mark since it made changes to its school closure matrix, which now puts more emphasis on district cases and groups grades 7 and 8 with grade 6, rather than with the upper high school grades.

Scott Ellingson presented a petition from 52 middle school teachers asking the district to bring seventh and eighth grades back into their previous grouping.

“Last meeting you made a dangerous change,” Ellingson said.

The change does not show any significant case increase, Ouellette said. The district will watch the next two weeks closely to see if any impact is seen.

High school cases continue to be a challenge for the district, Ouellette said, though cases have not been tied to spread among students during the school day. The high school could potentially make the jump to virtual learning for grades 10-12 if its case numbers go above 20 by the Wednesday decision time, Ouellette said.

The administration did discuss going virtual temporarily around the winter break, but Ouellette said there was concern doing so would mean the district does not have control over mitigation strategies the way it does when students are in school.