MDH wants youth athletes to test for COVID every week

“Frequent testing is a critical strategy to identify COVID-19 cases — including in people who have no noticeable symptoms — to stop the spread at an early stage,” the guidelines read.

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The Minnesota Department of Health issued updated guidelines for youth athletes this week, strongly encouraging all student athletes in grades K-12 to get tested weekly for COVID-19.

In order for testing to be simpler and more accessible to students, MDH recommends that middle and high schools offer on-site testing options, according to a press release from MDH.

While it is “strongly recommended” that face masks be worn at all times by athletes participating in outdoor sports, face coverings are no longer required when actively competing.

For those athletes who don’t wear face coverings while competing outside, weekly testing is strongly encouraged.

A separate document outlining COVID-19 testing for sports teams suggests that teams “develop a testing plan and manage testing needs,” including choosing a day each week for all participants to get tested and designating a coordinator in charge of testing.

“Frequent testing is a critical strategy to identify COVID-19 cases — including in people who have no noticeable symptoms — to stop the spread at an early stage,” the guidelines read.

MDH’s guidance reminds student athletes that, when planning for testing, “it is important to take into account the time needed for test results to be available” prior to competing.

“Be aware that people can get a positive COVID-19 test even if they do not have symptoms,” says an MDH guidance document under a heading of “Promoting a Culture of Honesty and Health.”

MDH is also suggesting that all students, regardless of athletic involvement, get tested every two weeks, due to an increase in the number of school-related cases, according to Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.

“Just this week we saw the number of school-related COVID-19 cases in students exceed the high set in November during the fall surge,” Malcolm said in a press release.

The new guidelines come “as Minnesota is experiencing increased community spread of COVID-19 and an especially high circulation of variants,” MDH’s press release says.

Dawn Gillman, executive director of Let Them Play MN, reacted to MDH lifting the mask requirement for outdoor sports.

“While we are pleased one baseless restriction has ended, Let Them Play will continue to fight until Gov. Walz and MDH have eliminated all unfair restrictions on sports and it is clear they will not be allowed to harm kids just to advance the governor’s political agenda,” Gillman said in a press release.