The risk level assigned to Stutsman County in relation to the coronavirus pandemic recently moved from yellow (moderate risk) to green (low risk), according to maps published by the North Dakota Department of Health.

Barnes, Eddy, Logan, Dickey and Sargent counties in this area are now classified as moderate risk while LaMoure, McIntosh, Kidder and Foster counties are at low risk like Stutsman County.

Ransom, Griggs and Wells counties are classified as having the "new normal" level of risk by the North Dakota Department of Health.

The change in risk level reflects a lower positivity rating, among other factors, recently reached in Stutsman County, according to Shannon Klatt, director of health promotion at Central Valley Health District in Jamestown.

"The goal is 5%," she said. "Pretty much about the time we hit green, the number started going up. We're definitely not going in the right direction now."

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The positivity rate is calculated using the average of the last two weeks. As of Oct. 11, the Stutsman County positivity rate was 2.75%. The recent low was on Sept. 27 at 1.35% but peaked on Sept. 10 at 6.4%

The statewide positivity rate for the past 14 days was 7.7% on Oct. 11, which is the highest reported since the start of the pandemic in March.

The change in the Stutsman County risk level was one of the factors involved in Jamestown Public School's planned transition to all in-class education, according to Rob Lech, superintendent of the district.

Lech said Jamestown Middle School would return to a regular classroom schedule on Oct. 26 with the high school slated for Nov. 16.

"There are a lot of factors to consider," he said. "We have to look at the class sizes to balance them. We had changed the schedule to accommodate the hybrid model; now we have to move that back."

Another factor in the decision to return to in-classroom education is a change in guidelines regarding when people would have to quarantine. Initially, people were asked to quarantine if they were in close contact with someone who had tested positive.

"The initial concern for quarantined students was pretty major," Lech said. "... we've had 0 positives for staff or students placed in quarantine for exposure."

The revised guidelines do not require quarantine if both individuals had worn a mask.

"This change in procedure for us is pretty major," Lech said.

Lech reported that about 1% of the students and staff at Jamestown Public Schools have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the fall school year.

Currently, in Stutsman County, 10 of the 85 active cases of COVID-19 are in youth between the ages of 6 and 19, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.

Lech said the school will continue to require masks be worn at school at all school-sponsored sporting events.

Klatt said the public needs to take precautions to prevent the case rate from climbing in the future.

"Limit social gatherings, wear a mask, wash your hands, just be aware of the possibility of the disease's spread," she said.

Contact tracing on most recent cases has indicated most exposure to the coronavirus is now random within the community and not from specific events, Klatt said.

Klatt said public testing in Stutsman County had slowed recently. There have been 32,508 tests processed in Stutsman County but only 7,474 unique individuals tested. Stutsman County has a population of 20,907.

"Many of the tests are staff and clients in long-term care facilities," she said. "They get tested multiple times."

Keeping the students in the classrooms and Stutsman County in the low-risk category will take community support, Klatt said.

"The schools have good processes in place," she said. "It is up to the students to wear the masks in school."

Lech said the school also needs the continuing support of the community.

The Jamestown Public School Board will hold a community input session from 6:15 to 8:15 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the commons area of the Jamestown High School for comments.