By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An eighth school staff member in Minnesota has died of COVID-19 since the start of the school year roughly 10 weeks ago.

Minnesota Department of Health data released Thursday shows that one school staffer died of the virus in the last week. The data doesn’t show where the staffer worked.

The number of COVID-19 school staff deaths this year now matches the staff death toll of all last school year. In total, 16 staffers have succumbed to the disease since August of 2020.

Denise Specht, the president of the Education Minnesota union, said that every COVID-related death in a school is tragic, because schools should be safe places for people to work and students to learn.

“Minnesotans need to come together to do everything we can to slow the spread of this virus so all our students can get back to doing the activities they love and educators can refocus on teaching,” she said.

This month, children ages 5 to 11 became the latest demographic eligible for the vaccine. Per state data, more than 18,000 children in that group have received their first vaccine dose.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. Health officials say the surge is likely due to several factors, including waning vaccine effectiveness in many people, the highly-contagious nature of the Delta variant, and relaxed mitigation strategies, such as masking.