The number of Minnesota schools reporting a coronavirus outbreak jumped 74 percent over the past week, with more than 400 school buildings reporting the outbreak to the state health department.
There has been a steady increase in schools with COVID-19 cases since the start of the academic year. A month ago, five or more cases were reported among students or staff in only six buildings.
There are 19 buildings with outbreaks in both Dakota and Washington counties and 14 schools in Ramsey reporting outbreaks.
School-age children have the highest rate of new cases with a positivity rate of 10.7 per cent in the age group of 10 to 14 years as compared to last week. School children accounted for about 26 per cent of the nearly 21,000 new infections reported last week.
Most children are not eligible for vaccination. People 12 and older have the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with less than 60 percent receiving at least one dose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks indoors in all 87 counties in Minnesota because community transmission of the coronavirus is so high. However, while there are virus mitigation recommendations from the state, there is no statewide mask mandate.
On Thursday, 32 COVID-19 fatalities were also reported. The latest deaths reported ranged in age from their early 30s to early 90s, with 21 living in private homes and 11 in long-term care.
Eighteen of these deaths occurred in October, 13 in September and one in March. The death toll since the pandemic began is 8,275, with 4,668 deaths in long-term care.
Cases of long-term care continue to rise, even though about 94 percent of seniors have received at least one dose of the vaccine. There are 338 facilities where at least one resident or employee has tested positive, up from 309 a week ago.
Minnesota added 2,674 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the result of nearly 42,000 tests. So far 732,001 infections have been diagnosed since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The rate of test positivity, new cases and hospitalization has been increasing steadily. 881 patients are hospitalized, out of which 234 are in critical condition.
Some parts of the state are facing a shortage of hospital beds, usually due to inadequate staffing.
Health officials say the best way to avoid a serious illness and slow the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Breakthrough cases are on the rise, but about 99 percent of the 3.1 million fully-vaccinated Minnesotans have not reported a successful infection.
Minnesota has given 6.4 million doses of the vaccine and 3.4 million have received at least one shot. About 73 percent of eligible residents, who are 12 years of age and older, have received at least one shot.