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MDH: Nearly 1,500 COVID-19 cases linked to sports since June

The sport linked to the most confirmed or likely outbreaks is basketball.

The number of Minnesotans who've been infected with COVID-19 while participating or attending sports events is nearly 1,500. All of the infections were documented by the Minnesota Department of Health since June 1, with data provided to Bring Me The News representing all reported cases through Sept. 5. 

The 1,452 cases includes 888 adults. It also includes 304 athletes between the ages of 15-17. 

It's unclear precisely how many high school athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 since fall sports began, but the Pioneer Press reported that at least 73 high school athletes had tested positive over a two-week period ending Sept. 4. 

The St. Paul newspaper cited data voluntarily reported to the Minnesota State High School League by 348 member schools. In addition to the 73 confirmed cases, another 735 athletes were in close contact with an infected athlete. However, 68% of responding schools had zero COVID-19 reports in the two-week period. 

The MDH doesn't separate infections tied to the MSHSL from non-high school sports, but between Aug. 23 and Sept. 5 the MDH reported 427 cases involving patients who played or attended sports events during their infectious or incubation period. 

An exact number of MSHSL athletes infected is unknown, though an MDH spokesperson told Bring Me The News that it would "have to be fewer than 304 since not all of those occurred during the time when the MSHSL would have been in action." 

The spokesperson noted that the sport with the most outbreaks since June 1 is basketball, with 15 confirmed or likely outbreaks. 

Detroit Lakes High School was scheduled to start the school year Monday, Sept. 14, but classes were pushed back a day due to someone in the high school community testing positive for the coronavirus, prompting a decision to start the school year with distance learning. 

The last-minute adjustment to full distance learning for high school students means all high school athletics and activities can only be participated in virtually. 

"Coaches will be reaching out to athletes this week with more information. We should plan on being in this model until September 25th but will know more as we move through the week and work with MDH on gathering more information," said Superintendent Mark Jenson

In August, the MSHSL board voted to move football and volleyball from the fall to the late-winter/early spring season with hopes that the coronavirus situation will be less of a threat. In response, thousands have joined a "Let Them Play MN" movement, including nearly 12,000 people joining the organization's Facebook group

The MSHSL has not indicated that it will reverse its decision to delay the start football and volleyball. 

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