MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Public Schools is now going to require face masks for all students, staff and visitors starting Monday, as concerns continue to grow surrounding the Delta variant’s spread in Minnesota.

“This decision is based on the strong recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health about masking being a critical way to protect children who cannot yet get vaccinated, along with others who are not vaccinated,” the school district announced Thursday.

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The district also added that face coverings are also required by the CDC for public transportation, including school buses.

“In the coming weeks, MPS will be providing families with more details on the range of health and safety practices schools will have in place when students return to in September,” the district said.

St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard plans to introduce a resolution requiring masks in that district on Tuesday, Aug. 10, which would be voted on by the school board the following Tuesday and, potentially, go into effect the next day.

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COVID-19 cases are expected to surge over the next two weeks, thanks to the easily-transmissible Delta variant. At least two-thirds of Minnesota counties are now considered at high or substantial risk of spreading the virus, including the bulk of the Twin Cities metro area.

While teachers prepare their classrooms for in-student learning, some of the state’s largest districts — like St. Paul and Anoka-Hennepin — will also offer some sort of virtual learning option. However, WCCO learned that’s not a state requirement.

COVID-19 cases among kids are rising, just weeks away from the start of school. The CDC reports that, for the week ending July 29, there were 72,000 cases of COVID-19 in kids under 18. The week before, there were 40,000 cases. Top doctors from the Mayo Clinic say data from summer camps has given them concrete evidence for why kids need to mask up in schools.

Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse said “in summer camp settings that used masks or didn’t use masks, the ones they were not using masks in were much more likely to have outbreaks or spread of infection.”

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