Children’s vaccines, rapid testing allay concerns

News that children ages 5-11 could get COVID-19 vaccines is welcomed by many families, especially those including children with disabilities. But Minnesota school officials still want the state to do more, in light of the first report student death this school yar. That is on top of two more school staff deaths.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced the deaths during the October 20 update. The age of the student and where people lived was not disclosed.

That alarms the state’s teachers’ union. .“Five school staff members and one student have died of COVID-19 this school year and it’s only October,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “There is no excuse for any district leader to ignore the guidelines for masking, social distancing, quarantining and vaccinations set out by state and federal public health authorities.”

“The loss of this student is a tragedy that every educator will feel,” Specht said. “We’re asking parents to please reduce the risk of another tragic death of a student by vaccinating their teens. When the vaccine becomes available to younger children, vaccinate them, too.”

The recent fatalities increased the total number of school fatalities since the start of the pandemic to two students and 13 school employees, including five workers this year.

While cases of coronavirus in schools has been on the decline, parents around the state still report illnesses and cases where students have to quickly pivot to online learning.

State officials are poised to help get more people vaccinated, and are encouraging much more testing. Gov. Tim Walz has announced steps to expand rapid COVID-19 testing opportunities to help Minnesotans find free, accessible, and quick testing resources in their communities. The National Guard is helping set up new, free rapid testing at community sites in Stillwater, Hutchinson, and Crookston, and at least three additional site. These sites will allow Minnesotans experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to take an antigen test and receive results in a matter of minutes.

Walz also announced additional COVID-19 rapid testing opportunities in partnership with local public health agencies statewide.

“As our local communities experience a surge of cases, we are working very closely with our local health care providers to fill gaps and ensure our communities have access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations,” said Chera Sevcik, Executive Director & Community Health Services Administrator at Human Services of Faribault & Martin Counties. “Our ability to provide testing each week helps free up crucial resources with our local health care providers so they can focus their efforts on treating patients.”

Find resources on vaccines, booster shots and rapid testing at https://mn.gov/covid19/