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(WHNT) — Over 9,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported this week by school systems across the state of Alabama.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) COVID-19 dashboard, 9,195 cases of COVID-19 were reported from 84 of 143 school districts in the state. 4,337 COVID-19 cases were reported last week in the state’s school system.

The state’s K-12 COVID-19 dashboard is a collaborative effort between ADPH and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) which compiles COVID-19 data from Alabama school districts to “provide a statewide view of COVID-19 cases and operating status in the K-12 setting.”

School districts are encouraged to report COVID-19 cases on a weekly basis.

“The 2021-2022 school year has barely begun, but school districts in Alabama have already sent home thousands of students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or come into close contact with a person with the virus,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. “Now that in-person classes are underway, there has been a 700 percent rise in childhood infections compared with this same week in 2020.”

In his September message, Harris said the most valuable way to protect children is discussing vaccinations with their child’s medical provider.

“Fully vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus that causes COVID-19, so getting all family members 12 and older vaccinated will help protect children, their younger siblings, and other people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” Harris continued.

“Children need to have a physical presence in the classroom because we know how many harmful effects there can be in keeping them away — mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially,” Harris concluded.

For the latest data on COVID-19 in Alabama K-12 schools, click here.