Delta variant demands changes to school-reopening plans, Minnesota expert says

As the school year concluded in June, optimism reigned. Minnesotans over the age of 12 finally had abundant opportunities to get the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine. The state’s coronavirus positivity rate declined below 1 percent for the first time since the start of the pandemic. And parents, kids, and teachers looked forward to fall, and what they hoped would finally be a more normal school year.

But since then, the Delta variant has spoiled those hopes. New cases in the state now average about 1,500 per day, more than a tenfold increase since late June. Positivity rates have ticked up above the 5 percent that public health experts consider worrying. And that data doesn’t yet include possible increases from the Minnesota State Fair or the start of the school year (with the exception of Albert Lea, where the school year opened last week with a COVID-19 outbreak).

And the risk calculus has changed. In the early stages of the pandemic, young children seemed to contract COVID-19 less frequently than adults. When they did get sick, their cases were usually milder. But now, children are more frequently falling ill with COVID-19. Though children remain unlikely to become seriously ill with the virus, COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations nationally reached their highest levels yet in recent days. And children under 12 still aren’t eligible for vaccines.