Teachers ask for virus protocols after student, staff deaths

A sign hangs outside of a classroom.
A sign outside of a classroom reminds students to practice social distancing.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

Members of Minnesota's teachers union are calling on school leaders to do more to protect students and staff after the state Department of Health reported the first student death from COVID-19 this school year.

Health officials said the student and two staff members died last week. That increased the total number of school fatalities since the start of the pandemic to two students and 13 school employees, including five workers this year.

“Five school staff members and one student have died of COVID-19 this school year and it’s only October,” Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said Thursday. “There is no excuse for any district leader to ignore the guidelines for masking, social distancing, quarantining and vaccinations set out by state and federal public health authorities.”

Specht also asked parents to reduce the risk “of another tragic death of a student” by having their teens vaccinated. About 85% of the nearly 12,000 school cases detected since mid-August have been among students.

The trendline seems to be moving in the right direction. Cases of the coronavirus in Minnesota pre-K-12 schools have dropped by nearly 70 percent since mid-September, the Star Tribune reported.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz visited a new COVID-19 rapid testing site on Thursday to highlight options for residents to get checked for the virus.

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