State reports sixth death of school staff member tied to COVID-19 in schools, total cases top 21,000

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. April 22, 2021 – A sixth school staff member has died of a COVID-19 infection linked to schools and the total number of cases of students and school staff has surpassed 21,000, according to data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health. 

“Three school staff members have now died since late February of a COVID-19 infection associated with schools,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “This is a tragic reminder that the pandemic isn’t over. Schools must continue protecting their staff and students.” 

The Minnesota Department of Education announced a new program Thursday to supply districts and youth sports organizations with free tests for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. State officials recommend weekly testing for athletes and biweekly testing for all students. 

“Everyone in our school communities – students, parents and staff – shares in the responsibility to keep each other safe,” Specht said. “Please get vaccinated when you can, take precautions outside your school buildings, get tested frequently and quarantine when necessary.” 

The health department on Thursday reported the largest week-to-week increase in school-related cases of 2021, with 1,461 new cases. The increase was driven by 1,258 new student cases. The department said 977 school buildings reported at least one case. 

The figures represent the spread of the virus in all Minnesota schools – public, private and tribal.  

The number of cases in Minnesota schools is approaching the same levels reached in November, when many districts switched to district learning. However, adult educators, who are more likely to become seriously ill, are a much smaller share of cases this spring. 

“We know the pain of this pandemic hasn’t been felt equally. Years of systemic racism in health care and our economy made our neighbors in communities of color especially vulnerable,” Specht said. “But it is up to all of us – white, Black and brown – to come together and protect the public schools that serve every student, everywhere.” 

The weekly report shows 11 more staff members and students have been hospitalized, bringing the total to 184 since the pandemic began last year.  

The health department did not release details of the latest death of a school staff member. 

The weekly report from the Minnesota Department of Health is available here: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/stats/covidweekly16.pdf 

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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