ST. PAUL — School buildings with COVID-19 outbreaks have grown exponentially since the academic year began and there are now 233 reporting outbreaks to the Minnesota Department of Health.

In early September, just six schools had reported five or more confirmed infections in students and staff over a two-week period. In the last few weeks students have been the leading source of new cases and school buildings with outbreaks have risen dramatically.

A week ago, 96 schools had confirmed outbreaks and this week the number more than doubled to 233 reporting cases. Health officials note that being on the list doesn’t necessarily mean a school has ongoing transmission.

Buildings that do not report new cases for 28 days are removed from the state’s tally, but can be added again if new outbreaks occur.

Community transmission of the coronavirus is high enough in 86 of Minnesota’s 87 counties that masks are recommended in public settings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are statewide recommendations, but virus mitigation measures vary by school district.

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Cases in long-term care facilities are also on the rise with 309 facilities reporting at least one case in a resident or staffer. That’s up from 284 facilities with infections a week ago.

Minnesota reported 2,874 new coronavirus infections Thursday, Sept. 30, and 13 more deaths were recorded by the state Department of Health. The rate of test-positivity, new cases and hospitalizations all remain higher than the caution thresholds health officials use to determine if the outbreak is under control.

There are 789 patients hospitalized including 207 in critical condition. An estimated 18,200 people with active cases are recovering at home.

Health officials maintain vaccination is the best way to avoid a severe infection. The state has administered 6.4 million doses of vaccine and 3.4 million people have gotten at least one dose.

Roughly 72% of the vaccine-eligible population, age 12 and older, has gotten at least one shot.