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Schools will have more COVID-19 testing options when they start the 2020-21 school year, the Minnesota Department of Health announced Tuesday.
Four testing options — including rapid tests — will be available to schools for free, and students can still get tested at the state-run community testing sites and other locations, according to MDH. The state is recommending that all unvaccinated students and staff be tested at least weekly throughout the school year.
The state Departments of Health and Education recommend schools implement testing programs during the academic year, but the decision is up to each school district. Federal grants are available through MDE to pay for the programs.
Children under 12 aren’t yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines — federal approval of a shot for kids could come this fall or winter — making them vulnerable to the highly contagious Delta variant, which is driving up case counts across the country.
There’s not evidence yet that the variant causes more severe illness in children, but hospitalizations of children and teens with COVID-19 nationwide spiked to an all-time high this month. The hospitalization rate still remains far below that of other age groups, however.
Minnesota’s testing options allow schools to conduct symptomatic testing, as well as routinely screen unvaccinated students and staff who don’t have symptoms. Schools can also request a temporary on-site testing location in case of outbreaks, MDH says.
“We must use every available tool to keep our students in classrooms because we know that is best for their well-being and academic success,” said Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller in a news release.
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