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5th Minnesota school staff member dies after getting infected with COVID-19 at work

The staff member's identity has not been released.

A fifth school staffer in Minnesota has died after contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. 

Education Minnesota announced the staff member's COVID-related death on Thursday, saying the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed that the individual "died of an infection linked to their work in a school." 

It's the second school staff death from COVID-19 in the past two weeks. The staff member's identity has not been released. 

“The news that two school staff members have died of COVID-19 in two weeks is a tragic reminder that this pandemic isn’t over,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “Everyone in our school community – families, students and educators – must remain vigilant and keep each other safe.”

The tragic news comes at a time when outbreaks are again being reported at Minnesota schools in the weeks after the majority resumed in-person teaching.

In Carver County, schools have been asked to limit activities as much as possible for two weeks to help gain control of an outbreak spread, which involves the B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in late 2020 in the United Kingdom.

The B.1.1.7 variant is believed to be 50-60% more contagious, and also capable of causing more severe illness, though the current crop of available vaccines are effective against it. 

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Sixty miles north of the the Twin Cities there is an outbreak at Pine City High School. The school announced Tuesday that it was transitioning high school students back to distance learning through early April. Nine students tested positive and approximately 90 more students were in quarantine, the school's superintendent announced. 

According to the health department, the 674 school-related positive tests in the past week are the most this year. Since the beginning of the pandemic, infections linked to Minnesota schools have totaled a confirmed 7,465 staff members and 8,720 students. 

The weekly report from the health departments shows that seven school staff/students have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the past week, including one patient in intensive care. 

COVID-19 cases have been ticking up again in Minnesota in recent weeks, with a Washington Post article this week identifying the state as one of the next potential "hotspots" for the virus.

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