MDH begins publishing COVID-19 case data from Minnesota schools

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is now releasing data on COVID-19 cases inside state schools involving students, teachers and staff.

The initial data release was reported Friday and can be found here.

Since Aug. 1, there have been 864 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pre-K-12 school buildings. Of those cases, 448 included staff and 416 were among students. MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said 509 pre-K-12 school buildings in the state have reported at least one positive case since Aug. 1.

In the most recent two-week period, 326 facilities have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 242 facilities (72%) involved just one case; 77 of the facilities involved anywhere from two to four cases; and seven (listed above) have five or more cases.

"I think the good news is when we look at the number of schools in the last two weeks that have had cases," Ehresmann. "The vast majority of them have had a single case in the building so that’s very positive."

MDH’s contact tracing staff have examined the school COVID-19 cases.

"A lot in what we’re finding in our investigations is that transmission is occurring outside of the school setting, social gatherings, athletic events, that type of thing," Ehresmann said. "That’s where I think it’s really important as we focus on the importance of in-person education and the role education plays in society."

"I want parents to know we’re tracking this, we’re coving it," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on why the state is now releasing school related data. "It’s important that we know."

According to MDH, the following schools reported five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students or staff who were in the building while infectious during a two-week reporting period.

  • Brainerd Senior High School in Crow Wing County
  • Albert Lea Senior High School in Freeborn County
  • Isanti Middle School in Isanti County
  • Fairmont Jr./Sr. High School in Martin County
  • Martin Luther High School in Martin County
  • St. Paul Lutheran School in Martin County
  • Hinckley Elementary in Pine County

MDH reported that the list will be updated each Thursday going forward. Ehresmann said the schools will be removed from the list after 28 days without a lab-confirmed COVID-19 test relating to the school.

She also clarified that even if a student has a confirmed case, that doesn’t necessarily mean the virus is spreading at the school; it translates to the student being infectious. Additionally, a student who is distance-learning and has not entered the school but has a positive case would not be counted in this data.

"We do have a number of children with COVID-19, that’s why we made the list," said Joseph Brown Sr., Fairmont Area Schools superintendent in Martin County.

Brown said about a half-dozen students and also some staff have tested positive for the virus.

The Minnesota Department of Education is now requiring the district switch on Monday to distance learning for higher grades, and then the following week for elementary students, according to the district.

"It’s sad for the kids — our students lost a half-year of education basically last year, when we shut down
in March, now they are losing out again," Brown said. "It’s going to impact a whole generation of students in Minnesota, all we have to do is work together as a community regardless of politics," Brown said.

The superintendent said adults in the community need to following masking and social distancing rules in order for students to have a chance at returning to the classroom.

"If they want their kids back in school, they want them to play sports some day, they have to bring those numbers down," Brown added.

MDH data showed 488 cases in Martin County and 12 deaths since the department began tracking COVID-19 earlier this year.

Based on Minnesota Department of Education data, there are more than 893,000 students in the state.

Listen to the MDH call in the video player below:

MAP: Data for K-12 schools by COVID-19 case rate

Friday, Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Ehresmann, and Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller provided updates on the state’s response to COVID-19.

Watch that news conference in the video player below:

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