Itasca County school added to Minnesota's COVID-19 outbreak list

Itasca County reports the highest COVID-19 case rates in the region.

(Graphic by Adelle Whitefoot /
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Another Northland school was added to the Minnesota Department of Health's outbreak list Thursday.

A school building is put on the list if it reports five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students or staff who were in a building while infectious during a two-week reporting period. The building is removed after 28 days of no new positive tests.

Deer River High School, in Deer River, was added to the list Thursday. Lowell Elementary School, in Duluth, added March 11, was removed from the list Thursday.

These Northland schools still remain on the outbreak list as of Thursday:

  • Grand Rapids High School, added Oct. 8.

  • Robert J. Elkington Middle School, in Grand Rapids, added March 11.

  • Hibbing High School, added March 18.

  • Mesabi East High School, in Aurora, added March 18.

  • St. Joseph’s Catholic School, in Grand Rapids, added March 18.

  • Cohasset Elementary School, in Cohasset, added March 25.

  • Greenway High School, in Coleraine, added March 25.

  • West Rapids Elementary School, in Grand Rapids, added March 25.

  • Hermantown Elementary School, added April 1.

  • Virginia High School, added April 8.

  • East High School, in Duluth, added April 15.

  • Stella Maris Academy’s St. James campus, in Duluth, added April 15.

  • Denfeld High School, in Duluth, added April 22.

  • Piedmont Elementary School, in Duluth, added April 22.

  • Lincoln Elementary School, in Hibbing, added April 22.

  • King Elementary School, in Deer River, added April 22.

  • Nashwauk-Keewatin High School, in Nashwauk, added April 29.

  • Laura MacArthur Elementary School, in Duluth, added April 29.

As of Thursday, 43 new school buildings were added to the list and four were removed for a total of 323 buildings remaining on the list.


Itasca County Public Health noted in a news release Wednesday that the county, which Deer River High School is located in, has the highest COVID-19 case rates in the region.

“Right now, the rate of spread of COVID in Itasca County is faster than the spread of vaccination and we’ve got to turn that around,” said Kelly Chandler, division manager for Itasca County Public Health. “It is critical that we do both right now — stay safe and get vaccinated.”

As a way to get more vaccines into the arms of teens, Grand Rapids High School partnered in April with Essentia Health and hosted a vaccine clinic at the school. In four hours, over 90 vaccines were administered to students age 16 and older. Essentia Health will be back at the school Tuesday to give the students their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Students who complete the vaccine series will no longer be required to quarantine due to a close contact, which Superintendent Matt Grose said is great for these students.

“We know that close-contact quarantines are a hardship for students and families,” Grose said in a news release. “It’s exciting to have a group of students who won’t be affected.”

Grand Rapids High School isn’t the only school hosting vaccine clinics to make it easier on students and their families to get the vaccine. East High School in Duluth held a clinic Thursday with the help of Essentia Health.


The Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday another 193 Northland teens got their first COVID-19 vaccine.

Statewide from April 26 through May 4, 9,513 more 16- and 17-year-olds have been vaccinated, for a total of 48,422.

The number of first doses administered to 16- and 17-year-olds in Northland counties are:

  • 77 in Aitkin County.

  • 320 in Carlton County.

  • 39 in Cook County.

  • 261 in Itasca County.

  • 39 in Koochiching County.

  • 76 in Lake County.

  • 1,603 in St. Louis County.

In St. Louis County, those ages 0-4 had 11 new cases, ages 5-9 had 12 new cases, 10-14 had 17 new cases and ages 15-19 had 34 news cases in the past week.

Statewide COVID-19 cases over the past week in the following age groups were: ages 0-4, 435; ages 5-9, 629; ages 10-14, 1,032; and ages 15-19, 1,079.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-verified 14-day case rates per 10,000 residents around the Northland for April 11-24 were:

  • 20.84 in Aitkin County.

  • 28.42 in Carlton County.

  • 16.95 in Cook County.

  • 76.99 in Itasca County.

  • 17.98 in Lake County.

  • 31.99 in St. Louis County.

  • 28.4 in the Duluth area.

  • 40.1 in Central/Southern St. Louis County.

  • 26 in Northern St. Louis County.

The 14-day case rates are used as guidance for school districts when choosing the right learning model for middle and high school students. Elementary students are allowed to return to in-person learning five days a week starting Jan. 18 regardless of these numbers.
According to Essentia Health’s COVID-19 Regional Projections dashboard, the county 14-day case rates per 10,000 residents as of May 4 were:

  • 22 in Aitkin County.

  • 26 in Carlton County.

  • 17 in Cook County.

  • 86 in Itasca County.

  • 20 in Lake County.

  • 28 in St. Louis County.

Adelle Whitefoot covers K-12 education in northeast Minnesota for the Duluth News Tribune. She has been covering education in Minnesota since 2014.
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