Northland schools ramping up COVID-19 testing for student athletes

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: March 16, 2021 06:12 PM
Created: March 16, 2021 05:18 PM

The Minnesota Department of Health is calling on enhanced COVID-19 mitigation measures among youth athletes, parents and coaches after reports of a rapidly growing outbreak of a COVID-19 variant in Carver County.

Schools across the Northland are taking these mitigation recommendations seriously.

"We're seeing instances of infection in our youth and we are seeing it has some spread throughout sports teams and also through social gatherings," said Aubrie Hoover, the St. Louis County senior public health educator. "Our case rates have have tripled in the last two weeks for northern St. Louis County and we're seeing some upward trends in central St. Louis County which is a cause for concern."

One of the school sports recently affected is the Duluth East High School boys hockey team. Their season was cut short after a student tested positive. 

Health experts say a big part of the mitigation is getting tested. MDH issued some new recommendations on testing for youth sports, including pausing sports for two week for counties experiencing increased activity of variants. Also, ramping up testing. 

"We do want kids to test biweekly and for student athletes it would be really good to test weekly and then even right before they go to a tournament," said Hoover.

"I do think that screening testing is really important and good and that's something that we're for sure gonna continue to be on board with," said Matt Grose, the superintendent for the Grand Rapids School District.

Grose said they have seen some cases among youth hockey programs at the elementary level and are watching those cases carefully and contact tracing. Grose said they are also focusing on following the updated recommendations and wants families to cooperate too.

"Part of fighting this virus and really keeping kids in school and healthy is to be able to react quickly. That's the big thing is to continue to cooperate with the schools. I'd urge folks to do that, let us know if your kid is sick, don't send them to school," said Grose.

"If we test the asymptomatic students and families, we can hopefully catch any potential carriers and get them isolated and quarantined," said Crystal Diehl, the Duluth School District lead nurse and COVID-19 coordinator.

Northland schools are working closely with MDH on establishing more testing options for students.

"At this time we don't have saliva testing for students in our buildings. Students are able to order a testing kit and have it sent to their home and they're able to bring the test kit into the school on our saliva testing days to have their samples sent in with our school staff," said Diehl.

To learn more about MDH sports guidelines, click here.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

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