Skip to main content

Minnesota Department of Health doesn't recommend closing schools over coronavirus pandemic yet

Only 2 percent of COVID-19 cases have involved people under the age of 19.

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Minnesota jumped from 5 to 9 Wednesday to Thursday, and more testing continues to happen daily with the number expected to continue climbing as the pandemic progresses. 

But while the University of Minnesota and its five campuses around the state have put a stop to all in-person classes, the Minnesota departments of health and education are not recommending schools close. 

"The MDH is not recommending that schools close at this point in time," said MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehersmann, who cited a number of reasons for the direction, namely because people under the age of 19 are lower risk to catch the virus, along with other unintended consequences that come with shutting down a school. 

Ehersman said only 2 percent of COVID-19 cases are for people under the age of 19, and there are no confirmed cases in school-age students in Minnesota.

Additionally, closing schools would mean interrupting the continuity of education, the risk of students going without food and nutrition, and other school services. 

Furthermore, Ehresmann noted that a lot of Minnesota's vital healthcare workers have children in school, and shutting them could potentially put a strain on health services.

Saint Paul Public Schools is in the third day of a teacher strike, yet the district is providing free breakfast and lunch – and kid care services – at numerous school sites within the district while the union work stoppage is ongoing.

Schools should practice social distancing

As the pandemic continues, schools are encouraged to implement social distancing, which, in short, is keeping people as far away from each other as possible. Doing so is darn near impossible in overcrowded classrooms and school buses, but there are mitigation tactics the MDH is advising the Minnesota Department of Education to utilize, including: 

  • Limit large gatherings.
  • Limit the number of people at assemblies. 
  • Reduce mixing by staggering the release of students to lunch and recess. 

If feasible, schools should also consider regular health checks by taking temperatures of students, staff and visitors. 

An exposure to the novel coronavirus is defined as any individual who is within 6-8 feet of an infected person for 10 or more minutes. To be clear, the MDH is not suggesting that keeping people 6+ feet apart is possible at all times in overcrowded classrooms and buses. 

In addition, students who are medically fragile or have underlying health conditions should consider other plans for distance learning and e-learning if possible. 

The Minnesota Department of Education will be sending guidelines and recommendations to school leaders within the next 24 hours.

In the event there is a COVID-19 case involving staff or a student, temporary closings would be recommended so cleaning can be done. 

What about everyone else?

The bulk of an MDH conference call with reporters Monday was solely focused on how schools should be reacting as the coronavirus spreads, but Ehersmann did say that Minnesota is "leaning" into the middle phase of a pandemic response, which is a transition from the containment phase to community mitigation. 

"We are now starting to move into the phase where we want to focus on community mitigation. We're moving into a phase where people's personal lives will likely be impacted," said Ehersmann. "We'll be making decisions that will affect all of our lives even if we are healthy." 

For now, working from home and avoiding large gatherings along with proper hygiene is recommended for everyone. More specific restrictions could follow in coming days. 

"We're going to be talking in the days ahead about different actions that will be important to take, and these are actions that will impact people's lives. The duration will likely not be short term," said Ehersmann. "The way that we need to deal with this is in a thoughtful and steady approach that may need to be in place for a while."

Essentially every sporting league, from high school to college and the pros, has suspended competition or restricted fans from attending events. The NHL, NBA, MLS, MLB, MSHSL, and NCAA are among the leagues that have taken action to help contain the epidemic.

Next Up

E.J. Stephens

Michigan State denies Gophers' upset bid

Joey Hauser's last-second lay-up handed Minnesota its fourth straight loss.

unsplash online learning child student

Minneapolis schools go to online learning for 2 weeks amid staff shortage

The online learning period starts Friday and will run for two weeks.

pexels bar face mask covid

Vaccinated can spread omicron, so why are Twin Cities requiring diners show vax proof?

Starting next week, indoor diners in the Twin Cities will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Daycare child care

MN child care providers will no longer need to quarantine kids, staff exposed to COVID

The state has loosened the rule that previously required exposed staff and children to quarantine.

Jim Kaat

Twins to retire Jim Kaat's No. 36 jersey

Kaat is the 10th player in franchise history to have his number retired.

Screen Shot 2022-01-12 at 1.41.10 PM

Minnesota firefighter dies from COVID just days after his father

The 42-year-old leaves behind his wife and their 10 children.

Chet Holmgren

Chet Holmgren announces partnership with Topps

The Minneapolis native is the latest to capitalize on NIL deals.


Border agents seize bushmeat from travelers at MSP Airport

Officials say they've identified a trend of travelers bringing bushmeat into the U.S.


teacher, covid, masks, school

As start of school approaches, Osterholm urges parents to buy high-quality masks

Dr. Michael Osterholm is worried that some districts aren't properly prepared.

covid, schools

Unvaccinated students, staff urged to take COVID-19 test 'at least once a week'

The recommendation is for students and staff, regardless of symptoms.


4 added to list of MN schools with 5+ confirmed COVID-19 cases

There are now 11 schools identified by the state health department.

masks, students, college

State health leaders 'extremely concerned' about students spreading COVID-19

State leaders don't want infected students, both high school and college, spreading COVID-19 to more vulnerable people.

Screen Shot 2020-09-22 at 8.22.07 AM

School near Duluth has 'high number' of people with COVID-19 symptoms

Wrenshall School District is moving to full distance learning.


Take a look at St. Paul Public Schools' back-to-school planning

Families will have the option for distance learning no matter what the state decides.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 2.17.01 PM

MN principal creates emotional music video ahead of return to school

"I wanted to create humor around a very taxing situation."