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Nearly 100 Winona State students test COVID positive in first week back

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 6:23 PM CDT
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WINONA, Min. (WEAU) - Colleges across the country spent months planning for the fall semester. However, COVID-19 can be unpredictable.

Now, the return of students at one area university is leading to a surge in COVID cases.

5,255 Winona State University students returned to campus last week.

Since then, 97 of those students have tested positive for COVID-19-- causing a surge in Winona County.

The county says an increase in cases was expected with college resuming.

“COVID-19 is a virus that should be taken seriously regardless of age,” said Melanie Tatge, the Winona County Health public health supervisor. “Make sure that you are practicing those COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing, hand-washing [and] mask-wearing.”

Winona County Health is in weekly communication with Winona State.

Only 10 percent of classes are exclusively face-to-face, with more than 50 percent online-only.

Masks are required and provided in every classroom along with sanitizer, no outside visitors are allowed in dorms, one way hallways implemented, and tents are setup across campus for outdoor learning.

The school continues to educate students on new procedures.

“Not only are you a Warrior on-campus, you are also representing Winona State and a Warrior off-campus as well,” said Dr. Denise McDowell, Winona State vice president for student life. “So, when things are brought to our attention and we know what the violations are-- our student code of conduct is enforced.”

The student COVID cases are mainly coming from small group gatherings and not large events.

While normally those connections are encouraged in college, this year the university is taking a different approach.

“Under the current circumstances we are asking people to limit the number of people in social gatherings of any kind, but we’re not discouraging them from being together,” McDowell explained. “We are saying to be mindful-- stay six feet apart.”

Winona State will continue to monitor the situation and test students who need it.

It’s asking for continued compliance as the contact tracing process moves forward.

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