State reports 11th death of school staff member from COVID-19

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. Oct. 7, 2021 – Education Minnesota repeated its call for educators and other adults in the school community to keep themselves and their students safe after the Minnesota Department of Health reported the third death of a school staff member in the current school year. Eleven school staff members have now died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. 

“There are too many sick people in our buildings, too many buildings that aren’t following best practices to control the virus and, to be blunt, too many people dying,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “The experts have told us how to operate schools safely during the pandemic – but we need every school to actually follow the rules.” 

Specht called on every school district to follow the guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health for operating more safely during the pandemic, including masking, testing, social distancing and vaccinations. 

“We all know there’s a shortage of staff and substitutes, but we can’t let that be an excuse for educators feeling pressure to work when they’re sick,” she said. “More districts should use the extra resources they’ve received this year to provide paid leave for staff who are sick, in quarantine or need time to get vaccinated.” 

Specht said parents without paid sick leave also feel pressure to take their children to school even when those children should stay home.  

“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that Minnesota needs to provide more safety nets for families,” she said. “In the short term, however, sick kids and adults need to stay home if we’re going to keep the buildings open this fall.” 

Since the pandemic began in 2020, 11 school staff members and one student have died of COVID-19, according to state data. Eight educators died during the previous school year; three have now died in the first month of the 2021-22 school year. Since August 2020, there have been 33,876 COVID-19 cases associated with schools and 324 hospitalizations of students and staff. The total number of school-related infections increased by more than 7% from the previous report. 

The health department’s weekly report for the week of Sept. 26 did not include details about the school staff member who died, including where the educator worked, vaccination status, age, or if the educator had a pre-existing health condition. Questions about the death of school staff members should go to the health department. 

The department’s weekly report can be found here:

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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