ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - As the new school year begins in Minnesota, the state health leaders remain concerned about a rise in childhood cases of COVID-19.
"Here in Minnesota our number of school-related cases among students and teachers continues to increase," said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
As a new year of in-person classes begin, MDH is reporting a rise in COVID-19 infections in schools across the state. The highly contagious delta variant is fueling the uptick.
"This delta variant spreads easy and it's more important than ever that we use our available tools to slow transmission, especially as we start this very important school year," said Malcolm.
In the past two weeks more than 160 schools from Pre-K to 12 reported infections. Right now the proportion of children being hospitalized is 1.3 percent. That figure is double what it was this time last fall.
"The good news is that that still is a relatively small number of cases in children that are being hospitalized," said Kris Ehresmann, the infectious disease director with MDH.
The overall risk of children becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19 is extremely low. Still, health officials are concerned.
"As we think about more kids back in school, our elementary school students are unable to get vaccinated. It gives us some pause," said Ehresmann.
MDH is encouraging school districts to take a layered prevention approach to reducing the spread.
"We do know, all of us, how important in-person learning is for students and we need to take the right actions to make that in-person learning possible and safe," said Malcolm.
Capitol Hill Magnet in St. Paul and Bluff Creek Elementary in Chanhassen are among several school buildings that have recently reported five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students and staff during a two-week reporting period. State health officials encourage children 12 and older get vaccinated.