Minnesota Department of Health recommends schools remain open during COVID-19 outbreak

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While speaking to the media Thursday afternoon, Minnesota Department of Health officials said they are recommending schools remain open during the outbreak.

MDH officials said global data shows individuals under the age of 19 are at a lower risk, and only two percent of the confirmed cases of the disease have occurred in that age group.

Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at MDH, said while the department is not recommending school closures, they are encouraging schools to work on community mitigation.

Ehresmann said this includes social distancing, altering school schedules to reduce students mixing and considering distance or online learning.

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Social distancing, which officials spoke about at length, is the practice of staying at least six feet from individuals.

Its recommendations include reducing the frequency of large gatherings, such as assemblies, and limiting the number of attendees at gatherings. Altering schedules to reduce mixing, staggering recess or entry and dismissal times, limiting school interactions and considering distance or e-learning in some settings were also recommended.

"We are moving into a phase where peoples personal lives are going to be impacted, up until now we have focused on ill people staying home and that is still our message, if you are sick you need to stay home, however, moving forward into community mitigation means that we will be making decisions that will affect all of our lives even if we are healthy," said Ehresmann.

The recommendation to keep schools open in the state comes after the health department announced there are now nine confirmed cases in the state.

The confirmed cases are in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, Ramsey and Stearns counties.

According to Ehresmann, all of the patients are recovering at home. She added that all the patients have a history of domestic or international travel and that none of them are due to community spread.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota State High School League said it isn't canceling most state tournament games but will limit spectators. The league said it cleared its decision with MDH.