MDH officials urge regular COVID-19 testing for students, athletes

MDH officials urge regular COVID-19 testing for students, athletes Photo: KSTP-TV.

Updated: April 22, 2021 09:18 PM
Created: April 22, 2021 10:49 AM

In seeking to slow the spread of COVID-19 and buy more time to vaccinate more Minnesotans, the Minnesota Department of Health in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education announced Thursday some updated guidance to support testing for students in middle and high school settings, as well as any Minnesotans participating in organized sports.

According to MDH officials, ongoing concerns about the potential sports and other group activities that contribute to COVID-10 transmission has the state now urging athletes, coaches, referees, volunteers and other participants to get tested for the virus on a weekly basis. Students not participating in sports or other group activities are still strongly encouraged to test every two weeks.

The guidance comes as the state is experiencing an increased community spread of COVID-19 and an especially high circulation of variants. Health officials now estimate that 60% of all virus cases in Minnesota are associated with the B.1.1.7 variant.

"The B117 strain is more contagious and results in higher rates of hospitalization," she said. 

Much of the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks has been seen in younger Minnesotans, particularly among middle and high school students, according to MDH. Over the past month, more people are being admitted to hospitals and intensive care units to treat COVID-19, and the average age of hospital admission is trending younger (59 years) than during the November and December surge (69 years).

"The B117 strain is more contagious and results in higher rates of hospitalization," she said. 

The state will provide free COVID-19 saliva test kits for any middle school, high school and organized sports team through the state's partnership with Vault Health. Students are also currently able to send their Vault at-home tests back to the lab through their schools. In addition to testing, it is critical that Minnesotans remain vigilant about the other tried-and-true protective measures of masking up, social distancing, and staying home when sick.

"It does not have to be a heartbreaking end to the season or the school year," she said.

As the state emphasizes testing in sports and the protective benefits this offers, participants in outdoor sports will have the option to remove their face covering while on the field or court. Face coverings must continue to be worn while not actively playing, for example on the sidelines or in the dugout. Face coverings must also continue to be worn at all times for indoor sports.

For an updated look at the guidance by MDH, click here.

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