Schools will have local control to design testing programs that meet student and family needs
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) announced Aug. 17 updates to Minnesota’s statewide education testing program. Schools will now have a variety of testing options available to them as they work to develop local testing programs to keep kids and staff healthy, safe and in their classrooms. MDE will also provide grants to support testing efforts in schools.
This school year, schools will have access to individual PCR tests, pooled PCR tests and rapid tests—both antigen and molecular (learn more about COVID-19 test types on the MDH website). Districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic schools will be able to assess which tests work best for their school community and have autonomy in developing their individual testing program. Offering testing in schools is strongly recommended given the rise in Delta variant cases.
“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 MDE Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller. “We stand ready to partner with and support our school leaders across the state as they develop local COVID-19 testing plans that keep our students, staff and families healthy and safe.”
Based on current levels of community spread across Minnesota, the CDC and MDH recommend that all unvaccinated school-age children and school staff get tested for COVID-19 at least weekly throughout the school year. Unvaccinated children involved in extracurricular activities or sports should be tested more frequently. Vaccinated students and school staff should get tested if they are experiencing symptoms or were exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Testing should be used in addition to other layered prevention strategies as outlined in Best Practice Recommendations for COVID-19 Prevention in Schools for the 2021-22 School Year (PDF).
“Getting people vaccinated as soon as possible is critical for our long-term success against COVID-19,” MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “Meanwhile, for those who are not yet vaccinated, regular screening testing is an important tool to know they are healthy, get the care they need if they are sick, and prevent the spread of the virus to others. Regular testing, along with masking and the other layers of prevention, gives our schools, students, families and educators the best chance of getting the school year off to a successful and healthy start.”
Testing at school makes access to tests more equitable, which is one of the many reasons the State of Minnesota encourages all schools to create their own testing program and have helped provide the resources to do so. Schools will be able to choose from the following tests to create their own testing programs:
- BinaxNOW Professional and Over-the-Counter: individual, rapid antigen test.
- Cue: individual rapid molecular nasal swab test.
- Vault: individual molecular saliva test.
- Battelle: pooled molecular nasal swab test.
- Hot Spot Testing: Schools can work with their local public health or MDH to request a temporary testing location in response to local outbreaks.
Grants to support COVID-19 testing in schools will be made available through MDE. Every school district, charter school, tribal school and nonpublic school offering a testing program is eligible for a grant. Grant money can be used to fund staff to support, administer, or execute testing, or to purchase tests through a vendor.
How Minnesotans can get a free COVID-19 test:
- Order a test through the state’s no-cost at-home COVID-19 testing program.
- Find a testing option near you through the state’s Find Testing Locations map.
- Walk-in or schedule an appointment for a test at one of the state’s no-cost community testing sites across Minnesota.
How Minnesotans can get their free shot:
- Walk in or make an appointment through the Vaccine Connector.
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Public Hotline
Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Use the state’s Vaccine Locator Map to find a vaccine provider near you.
- Check for vaccine appointments using the Vaccine Finder. You can search for appointments by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer).
- Contact your primary health care provider or a local pharmacy.
- Employers may also reach out with information about vaccination opportunities.
Feature photo courtesy of NPR.