ST. PAUL — School-age children continue to be at the center of Minnesota’s latest wave of coronavirus infections with more than 4,000 between the ages of five and 19 testing positive for COVID-19 in the last week.

There are now 96 school buildings with outbreaks confirmed by the Minnesota Department of Health Thursday, Sept. 23, up from 26 buildings a week ago.

Cases in long-term care are also on the rise with 284 facilities reporting infections, up from 267 the week before. Infections in long-term care had fallen to fewer than two dozen in late June.

State health officials say nearly all new cases are driven by the more contagious delta variant, which can also cause more severe disease. Nearly all severe infections are in Minnesotans who are unvaccinated.

While breakthrough cases are on the rise, of the 3.1 million Minnesotans who are fully vaccinated 99% have not reported a breakthrough infection. There have been 23,330 breakthrough cases, 1,268 hospitalizations and 118 deaths in fully vaccinated residents.

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The Minnesota Department of Health reported 24 new COVID-19 deaths Thursday and 2,434 new infections. The latest deaths to be reported ranged in age from their late 40s to their late 90s.

Twenty-two of those fatalities resided in private homes and two in long-term care facilities. Deaths are not reported in a uniform way and the latest reported fatalities include 21 deaths from September and one each from August, January and December.

The state’s death toll is 8,049 with 4,612 fatalities in long-term care. About 87% of all deaths are people 65 or older.

Minnesota has diagnosed 694,320 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began in March 2020. Of those, 668,574 people who tested positive have recovered enough they no longer need to be isolated.

There are 777 patients hospitalized including 214 in critical condition. Nearly 17,000 people with active cases are recovering at home.

Health officials maintain that vaccines are the best way to avoid a severe infection. The state has administered 6.3 million doses of vaccine and 3.3 million people have gotten at least their first shot.