MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Rising cases of COVID-19 linked to schools is concerning public health officials who expect the frequency of them to increase over the coming weeks.

State epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said Wednesday that last week cases averaged about 150 per day, but that this week is already seeing much higher case counts with more than 600 cases on Monday and 500 cases on Tuesday.

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“This is on the way up,” she said. “We do expect it’s going to continue rise over the next few weeks.”

In the latest report from the Minnesota Department of Health released Thursday, data show 410 school buildings reported cases in the last two weeks ending Sept. 11, which is nearly double the previous two-week reporting period.

Just a week after beginning the year, Vaughan Steffensrud Elementary in Chisholm is remote for two-weeks due to “substantial classroom transmission.” The district wouldn’t say how many cases there are in the building.

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The trends of COVID-19 in schools have some parents worried, like Michelle Doan of Faribault whose son Carter is in second grade. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Doan said she stressed over whether or not to send him back to school in-person this year—she had him study online all of last year. If her son’s school has to do two-weeks of distance learning, she will likely switch him to doing that full time.

“I just feel better if we could be on a strict schedule so I’ve said I would pull him out if school got shut down,” she said. “I just find it more convenient that he be home and the consistency of doing online.”

Other parents wrote to WCCO concerned about their children’s schools not requiring masks. COVID-19 mitigation strategies are district-level decisions and there is no statewide requirement.

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The Minnesota Department of Education said it’s still gathering information on what each district is doing in response to the pandemic.

Caroline Cummings