The latest statistics released by the Mitchell School District indicate active COVID-19 cases continue to drop.
According to numbers released by the district, there are six active cases of the disease among the student body and staff. Of those cases, one was recorded at L.B. Williams Elementary School, two were recorded at Mitchell Middle School and three were recorded at Mitchell High School.
The numbers reflect a continuing trend of COVID-19 cases decreasing at the school, which just returned to classes after the Christmas holiday break on Monday.
A week prior, in a report dated Dec. 24, the district had recorded 10 active cases of the disease. Two cases were recorded at each Longfellow Elementary School, Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School and Mitchell Middle School. Mitchell High School had four active cases of the disease, according to the report.
Another week earlier, the district had 12 reported cases of COVID-19, with three at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School, two at L.B. Williams Elementary School, three at Mitchell Middle School and four at Mitchell High School.
The district has seen 202 recovered cases of the COVID-19 across the district.
Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, said it was encouraging to see the numbers drop as low as they have, although it is difficult to pinpoint what factor is having the most effect on the decrease in active cases.
“It was nice to see them go down, and we’ve seen them go down in the county, too, so it appears to be part of a broader trend,” Graves said.
While COVID-19 figures have been in flux the last several weeks, active cases of the disease in South Dakota have generally been on the downswing. The latest figures from the South Dakota Department of Health show 6,034 active cases of the disease across the state, which is down considerably from a high of over 19,000 active cases in mid-November, though the latest figure is up from 5,696 reported on Dec. 31, which was the lowest number of active cases recorded since October.
Graves said it is difficult to determine exactly what is causing the number of active cases to fall, though the trend in the district seems to be following the general statewide trend. He said he and school leaders would continue to monitor the situation, follow their established safety protocols and follow the advice of medical professionals.
“I don’t really know (what is causing the decrease). I’d love to see some scientific investigation on why they’ve gone down. South Dakota did not have a statewide mask mandate, but North Dakota did, and they both dropped,” Graves said. “Did that have something to do with it? Is it the masks? Is it the fact that people didn’t gather during the holidays? I wish I knew, but I’m going to listen to medical professionals and take the best advice from them.”
Still, starting the second semester of an unusual year with low COVID-19 numbers is encouraging, he said.
“(What we’re doing) seems to be working well. Obviously students want to be in school and participate in their activities, and we want them here,” Graves said.
Both Dakota Wesleyan University and Mitchell Technical College reported no active cases of COVID-19 in their latest reports. The DWU COVID-19 online dashboard was last updated Dec. 22 and will be updated again when students resume classes following holiday break on Jan. 18. Mitchell Technical College reported zero active cases of the disease in a report dated Jan. 4, with 137 recovered cases. Mitchell Technical College resumes classes following holiday break on Jan. 11.