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The latest COVID-19 figures in Minnesota's preK-12 schools show that the deaths of two more school staff members with the virus were reported in the past week, along with the death of a student.

The Minnesota Department of Health's weekly report shows that there have now been 13 school staff deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, an increase of two from a week ago.

The department also reported the second death of a student from COVID-19 since the pandemic started – and the first of this school year. No details are available about the student, though MDH announced Thursday that someone aged 15-19 in Hennepin County had died from the virus.

The development prompted a statement from Education Minnesota, which has called on all school districts to implement masking, social distancing, quarantine and vaccination guidelines set out by state health officials.

“Five school staff members and one student have died of COVID-19 this school year and it’s only October,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “There is no excuse for any district leader to ignore the guidelines for masking, social distancing, quarantining and vaccinations set out by state and federal public health authorities.”

“The loss of this student is a tragedy that every educator will feel,” Specht said. “We’re asking parents to please reduce the risk of another tragic death of a student by vaccinating their teens. When the vaccine becomes available to younger children, vaccinate them, too.” 

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There have also been two more students and three more staff members placed in the ICU with COVID-19, and a further 10 students and three staff members hospitalized for the virus.

In terms of cases, there were 2,548 additional COVID cases among students (+2,215) and staff (+333) recorded in the past week. 

That's the highest it's been at any point during the recent delta variant-driven surge.

However, it's too early to tell if there will now be a decline in school staff/student cases that mirrors the decline in cases seen in all age groups in the past few days. 

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If there is a correlation, then we can expect the number of cases among students and staff should fall by the time the next weekly report is released on Oct. 28.

The growth in the number of schools that have reported five or more COVID-19 cases within a two-week reporting period is slowing too. 

There are 535 Minnesota schools that have reported five or more cases as of Thursday, up from 497 last week, though the week before the number was at 405.

Of the 535 schools, most of them (339) come from outside the 7-county Twin Cities metro, where COVID-19 cases rates have been higher, vaccination rates lower, and mitigation policies such as masking are less likely to be in effect.

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