Covid-19 cases rising at alarming rate in schools

Rachel Mills
Updated: April 22, 2021 05:09 PM
Created: April 22, 2021 04:00 PM

(ABC 6 News) - The Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday cases in schools are rapidly approaching the levels we saw in November when schools first decided to switch to distance learning.

"It's about a third of our cases over the last week have been in school-aged children," Graham Briggs, the director of Olmsted County Public Health, said. 

With students back at their desks, the Covid-19 virus has a grip on schools. Here in Rochester, the number of students quarantining is greater than any time since last fall. 

"We're seeing it not just in Rochester Public Schools, but throughout the county and all of our districts really. We're seeing this increased percentage of our cases in school-aged children," Briggs said. 
With children unable to be vaccinated, the variants of the virus have found a new place to spread.

"Particularly among middle and high school students and kids, we do think the B.1.1.7 variant is moving through younger populations more effectively than what we've seen in the past," Briggs said.

Even among those 16 and older who can be vaccinated, health experts are seeing some surprising hesitancy. 

"We're hearing from 16 to 18-year-olds that they want to wait and get their vaccines after prom," Dr. Melanie Swift, co-chair of Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation and Distribution Work Group, said.

"Once you're fully vaccinated and two weeks out from that last dose, you don't have to quarantine anymore if you're thinking about playing sports or maybe not for prom," Briggs said.  

Olmsted County Public Health said it's working closely with schools to allow students to continue learning in person.

"We're really trying to work with the school districts and understand where that risk is and where we can, mitigate that risk and transmission in kids as we're seeing it come up," Briggs said.  

Austin Public Schools is one of few districts that have not seen an increase in cases lately, and Superintendent David Krenz believes it's because they have stayed in person all year. 

"We chose to stay in our current model because we had seen that those schools that had come back were seeing a larger number of quarantines and cases," Krenz said. 

Dr. Swift with Mayo Clinic also said there are ongoing vaccine trials in younger children, ages 12 to 15, testing if they can get the vaccine, too. These trials will gradually move down age groups. 

Dr. Swift believes by the end of the year, there will likely be a vaccine available for 6-month-olds.

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