School flu outbreaks continue to grow across Minnesota

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Schools across the state are feeling the strain of more flu cases. Minnesota Department of Health data shows as of Nov. 19, there have been an additional 240 school outbreaks. There have been a total of 564 school outbreaks statewide since the first week of October.

“I don’t think people know how bad it is really is,” said Elizabeth Stannard, whose son attends 3rd grade in Saint Paul Public Schools. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our children safe and hopefully everyone will do their part too.”

Her 9-year-old son Charlie’s classroom has about eight students absent every day right now, according to Stannard.

“There’s a lot of people out,” said Charlie Stannard. “The specialist teachers are always saying to our teachers ‘Wow there are a lot of people out today’.”

According to MDH, K-12 schools report an outbreak when either the number of students absent with a flu-like illness hits 5%, or three or more students are absent from the same elementary classroom with a flu-like illness.

Data below via the map shows outbreaks of influenza-like illnesses reported to MDH. If you’re viewing the data on a mobile device, click here for a list option and here for the map option.

“I think we’re going to be looking at this all year long,” said Elizabeth Stannard. “We do the flu shots and we get vaccinated and we do all of the things we need to do to stay healthy to make sure that we are doing our part to make other kids feel safe and healthy too.”

The increase in flu cases is also affecting childcare programs.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in flu and RSV cases,” said Kelly Monson, the vice president of child development and learning for the YMCA of the North. “We’re seeing it at all locations throughout the Twin Cities and Rochester.”

Monson started seeing sick calls from families pick up about two to three weeks ago. It’s affecting their early childcare programs for babies and children 6 months old through pre-K, as well as their before and after school care for school-aged children.

Staff are also becoming ill with the flu and RSV.

“It’s a struggle because the early care and education industry specifically struggle with staffing, everyone knows that,” said Monson. “That’s definitely a crisis in our area and across the state and across the nation and this just adds to that already crisis that we have.”

She explained they’ve been shifting staff to make sure they can cover each room.

“We are already very diligent about hand washing, disinfecting and cleaning but definitely a lot more diligent,” said Monson.