Sep 8, 2021 - News
Poll: Majority of Minnesotans fear back-to-school COVID case surge
Illustration of an apple wearing a covid mask.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A majority of Minnesota adults (56%) are worried that the start of the school year will result in another surge of COVID-19 cases, according to a new Axios/Momentive poll.

Why it matters: The poll of more than 38,000 U.S. adults — including 1,056 Minnesotans — last month reflects the anxiety and tension many of us are feeling about another school year upended by the pandemic.

  • Already high COVID-19 case numbers are fueling concerns about classroom outbreaks and learning disruptions.

Driving the news: Most school districts statewide are back to in-person instruction as of this week.School districts across Minnesota are back to in-person instruction as of this week. Minneapolis schools start today and St. Paul tomorrow.

State of play: Without statewide mandates in place, parents and teachers are navigating a patchwork of masking and quarantining policies that vary by district.

  • And bus driver shortages, tied to broader pandemic pressure on the labor market, are forcing some schools to stagger start times and shuffle plans.

Between the lines: Anecdotally, we know many families are also concerned about what another year of class quarantines and closures will mean for students and working parents alike.

  • Those fears might be justified. Just days into the school year, Albert Lea had to send 290 kids home to quarantine due to an outbreak. There wasn't a mask mandate at the time.

Another example: Political operative Jen DeJournett tweeted recently that her vaccinated, mask-wearing 13-year-old daughter was forced to miss days at her Maple Grove charter school after a maskless, unvaccinated classmate who sat nearby tested positive. A negative test wasn't enough to get her back.

  • "As a mom, I’m going to lose my mind," she told Torey. "The [state] guidance is a mess and the local officials and local school nurses don't know what to do."

Plus, those mask mandates continue to divide Minnesotans: 52% of the roughly 280 local parents who responded to the poll question support them, while 38% are opposed. Another 9% supported mask mandates for unvaccinated students and staff.

  • The poll, conducted Aug. 16-26, suggests more opposition here than in some states with even higher case counts and bans prohibiting such COVID mitigation measures, including in Texas and Florida

What to watch: An influx of school and child care cases could create new demand for testing.

The bottom line: Experts say mitigation strategies, including masking, and continuing to vaccinate as many eligible Minnesotans as possible could help keep the year on track.

The data are from an Axios|Momentive online poll conducted August 16-25, 2021 among 38,251 adults ages 18 and older in the United States. The modeled error estimate for the full, national sample is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points.

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