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Dickinson schools shut, to go virtual for 2 weeks

Health agency recommends switch due to virus

(Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo) Iron Mountain Middle School eighth grade English teacher Marcus Celello gives Chromebook instructions Friday to Macy Linsenbigler for virtual learning.

All Dickinson County public schools will shut down in-person classes and go to virtual learning at least through Oct. 30 amid a surge of COVID-19 activity in the area.

The Dickinson-Iron District Health Department recommended the switch Friday morning after a week that saw the county’s number of positives rise by 183 new cases, from 235 on Oct. 9 to 418 on Friday.

It left officials in the county’s four school districts — Breitung Township, Iron Mountain, Norway-Vulcan and North Dickinson County — scrambling Friday to prepare students for two weeks of distance learning until face-to-face classes resume Nov. 2.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for all and we are working diligently to make this process as easy, simple, and effective as possible for all our students, staff, families, and our amazing BTS community,” Breitung Township Superintendent Craig Allen wrote in a letter Friday to students, parents and families.

“Middle and high school students are required to check their emails and Google classroom information daily. They will be expected to work daily on their courses,” North Dickinson Superintendent/Principal Angel Inglese wrote in a statement posted on the district’s website and through social media. “If your child does not have the ability to access their Google classrooms during this time, their teachers will send home packets.”

Students at Kingsford High School and Middle School leave school on Friday, the last day of in-school instruction for the next two weeks. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

She also pointed out connecting to Google classrooms can be done via smartphone, though some parts of the district are fairly rural, with spotty phone and internet service.

All athletic activities in the four Dickinson County districts — including three football games Friday — have been canceled for the duration of the school shutdown.

While COVID-19 cases in Dickinson County have been spiking, only a handful of COVID-19 cases had surfaced in the schools so far, according to reporting that began this week: Breitung Township reported Wednesday one Kingsford High School student and staff member tested positive, along with a staff member at Woodland Elementary on Oct. 10; Iron Mountain listed one positive staff member. Neither Norway-Vulcan nor North

Dickinson had posted a case among students or staff so far.

Dickinson County follows Iron County schools in pausing in-person classes in late September due to COVID-19 concerns. Forest Park in Crystal Falls resumed face-to-face classes this week after a special school board vote, even though the DIDHD had recommended remaining out through Oct. 23.

According to the DIDHD, Dickinson County added 39 new COVID-19 positives Friday, while Iron County had eight more cases. The agency Friday showed 418 residents confirmed so far to have COVID-19 plus 17 probables in Dickinson County, with 105 recovered, five deaths and 325 cases still active. For Iron County, the department had 311 confirmed cases and 19 probables, with 75 recovered, 17 deaths and 238 cases still active.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 data site Friday recorded 146 new cases in the Upper Peninsula: 44 in Marquette County; 30 in Dickinson County, 19 in Delta County, 11 in Mackinac Couny; eight in Iron and Alger counties; five in Menominee, Houghton and Gogebic counties; four in Ontonagon County; three in Chippewa County; and two each in Baraga and Keweenaw counties.

In total for the Upper Peninsula, the MDHHS on Friday had Keweenaw County with 16 confirmed cases and two probable; Luce County, 28 confirmed cases and nine probable; Schoolcraft County, 49 confirmed cases and four probable; Baraga County, 53 confirmed cases, 12 probable and four deaths; Alger County, 60 confirmed and 17 probable; Ontonagon County, 60 confirmed and four probable; Chippewa County, 61 confirmed cases and 40 probable; Mackinac County, 105 confirmed cases and 29 probable; Gogebic County, 194 confirmed cases, 45 probable and a death; Iron County, 308 confirmed cases, 18 probable and 16 deaths; Dickinson County, 405 confirmed cases, nine probable and five deaths; Menominee County, 506 confirmed cases, 103 probable and three deaths; Marquette County, 596 confirmed cases, 106 probable and 12 deaths; Houghton County, 692 confirmed cases, 147 probable and six deaths; and Delta County, 826 confirmed cases, 123 probable and 16 deaths. State numbers are updated daily but can lag behind local reports or have other discrepancies.

Using only the state figures posted Friday, the Upper Peninsula has had 3,959 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, but had no new deaths to remain at 63.

The MDHHS reported 2,015 confirmed new COVID-19 cases in Michigan on Friday for a total of 143,106 to date. The state added 14 new deaths Friday for a total of 6,987.

For Wisconsin counties in the region, the state Department of Health Services’ COVID-19 data site had 30 new positives in Marinette County, nine in Vilas County, four in Forest County and one in Iron County.

The DHS on Friday had Marinette County with 1,379 confirmed cases, 86 probable cases and nine deaths; Vilas County, 397 confirmed, 20 probable and three deaths; Forest County, 392 confirmed, seven probable and 10 deaths; Iron County, 159 confirmed, 16 probable and one death; and Florence County, 149 confirmed, four probable and four deaths. As with the Michigan data, the state numbers are updated daily but can lag behind local reports or have other discrepancies.

Wisconsin had 3,861 new positives in the state Friday — another new one-day record for the state, for the second straight day and third day this week — for a total of 166,186, according to the DHS data site. The state added 38 new COVID-19 deaths Friday to reach 1,536 and continued its record-setting pace for hospitalizations, hitting a new high of 1,101 patients.

Dickinson County Healthcare System as of Friday showed 82 positives from Dickinson County and 178 from other counties; those counties are not identified. DCHS has tested 5,087 people for COVID-19, with 260 positive, 4,709 negative and 118 results still pending. DCHS noted there are several additional sources of testing in Dickinson County.

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