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The Minnesota Department of Health has reported the death of two more school employees from COVID-19.

MDH on Thursday released its latest COVID-19 data in school settings for the reporting period ending Oct. 23. It revealed the total number of school staff members who have died from the virus since Aug. 1, 2020, now totals 15.

These latest two deaths mean the total number of COVID deaths among school employees has risen to seven since the start of the new school year.

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The weekly report also revealed a further 2,033 COVID cases among preK-12 students in the week ending Oct. 23, though this represented a reduction compared to the 2,215 new cases reported among students in the week ending Oct. 16, and the 2,045 the week earlier.

The drop in cases mirrors what was happening at the state level during the week of Oct. 17-23, when Minnesota experienced a fall from its recent COVID case highs that had been driven by the delta variant.

But cases have ticked back up again slightly so far this week, so it remains to be seen if last week's dip will continue.

The latest update shows that five more students were hospitalized with COVID-19 between Oct. 17-23, but none needed to go to the ICU, and there were no more deaths.

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It comes as Minnesota gears up to roll out its COVID vaccination program to 5- to 11-year-olds, with the FDA and CDC expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for younger children in the coming days.

Teachers union Education Minnesota this week called for a "bold" plan to vaccinate Minnesota's children, including vaccine clinics in schools, PTO for parents who need to get their kids vaccinated, and even a state holiday for vaccinating students once enough doses are available.

Gov. Tim Walz said that Minnesota has a "diverse network" of more than 1,100 providers who will be administering shots.

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