66 confirmed COVID-19 cases at Albert Lea school since start of the school year

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Albert Lea, Minnesota school district grew to 66 this week as the district continues to deal with an outbreak.

Last week, the district announced nearly 300 students had been placed into quarantine in the first week of classes after 36 positive cases.

The outbreak not only prompted Albert Lea to change their mask policies, going from a recommendation to a mask mandate for high school students, but also resulted in the Department of Health urging schools to not let COVID-19 mitigation take a backseat just because the state isn't issuing mandates.

"Local schools have the responsibility to establish effective health and safety policies," said Minnesota Health Commission Jan Malcolm. "But we're concerned to hear reports that in some school districts and schools, the fact that we at the state are no longer mandating these prevention measures is being misunderstood to mean that the recommendations are not important or that we don't feel they are essential to implement."

Health leaders urge schools to take multi-level steps to prevent outbreaks, including masking, getting vaccinated, staying home if you feel sick, and social distancing in schools.