Skip to main content

Officials urge unvaccinated students, staff to get COVID tests 'at least once a week' during school year

The recommendation is for students and staff, regardless of symptoms.

Just weeks before the majority of students return to classrooms for the 2021-22 school year, Minnesota's education and health departments are encouraging students and staff to get tested for COVID-19 frequently. 

The recommendation was issued Tuesday amid concerns that schools could fuel COVID-19 outbreaks on the back of the very transmissible delta variant. Guidance from state now encourages all unvaccinated kids and school staff to get tested at least once a week during the school year.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said kids in sports or extracurricular activities "should be tested more frequently" than once a week, and that students and staff who are fully vaccinated should get tested if they develop symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 

Kids under 12 can't yet get the vaccine, while students ages 12-18 are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The latest data show that around half of the state's children ages 12-17 have received at least one dose, while fewer are fully vaccinated. 

  • Ages 12-15: 47% have had one dose, 38% are fully vaccinated
  • Ages 16-17: 56% have had one dose, 49% are fully vaccinated

Even before returning to schools, kids in Minnesota are testing positive at a higher rate compared to recent months. 

"Of the 5,185 cases detected among children 19 and younger since mid-June, more than half – nearly 3,000 cases – were detected in the most recent two weeks," said Malcolm.

Where COVID-19 is raging in America, schools have been prone to large outbreaks. For example, a public school district in Tampa, Florida, has scheduled an emergency board meeting this week after 5,599 students and 316 employees were either in isolation or quarantine after testing positive or coming into close contact with someone who tested positive. 

More than 16,800 Floridians are hospitalized with COVID-19, which represents approximately 1 in 5 of total hospitalizations in the U.S. There are currently just over 430 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in Minnesota

A recent preprint study (meaning it has not been properly reviewed) involving tens of thousands of Mayo Clinic Health System COVID-19 patients revealed that six months completing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine series the vaccine's effectiveness against the delta variant dropped to 42%. 

Related: Mayo Clinic: Don't jump to conclusions about vaccine efficacy study

The only vaccine kids 12-18 are federally allowed to receive is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, whereas the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are permitted for people ages 18-plus. 

Testing frequently can be burdensome to families, which is why the state on Tuesday unveiled a variety of testing options available for students and staff within school buildings. Schools will have access to saliva tests, rapid testing and nasal swab testing.  

“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 Education 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.”

School leaders interested in providing in-school testing options should follow this link and request testing materials with two weeks lead time. School nurses and staff will then train others how to perform the tests, including allowing kids ages 5 and older to conduct a nasal swab by themselves. 

Next Up

St. Louis County

St. Louis County set to declare state of emergency ahead of peak flood levels

Volunteers are urgently needed for sandbagging efforts in a small community near Voyageurs National Park.

Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 5.03.30 PM

Brothers Bar & Grill closes in downtown Minneapolis

The Midwest chain closed its St. Cloud location in 2018.

Ken Jeong

Licensed physician Ken Jeong to do standup in MN this September

The licensed physician will take the stage at Treasure Island Resort and Casino on Sept. 30.

Osseo Police Department

Osseo PD says officer did not pursue suspect who caused fatal crash

The crash happened in Brooklyn Park early Sunday morning.

221 Main Street. E. Albert Lea

Suspect arrested after 3 family members stabbed in Albert Lea

The three victims are related, according to police.


Evidence that omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5 are in Minnesota

The European CDC has warned of a possible significant summer surge fueled by the omicron subvariants.

driving unsplash - crop

Hastings man charged for driving drunk with 2-year-old in vehicle

Matthew Quade's BAC was almost five times over the legal limit when police pulled him over last week.

police lights

Arrest made after person shot at Hopkins apartment building

Police say this was an isolated incident and that the victim and suspect knew each other.


BA.2.12.1 omicron subvariant quickly becoming dominant in MN

Experts say the subvariant is more transmissible but there is not evidence to suggest it causes more severe disease.


teacher, covid, masks, school

As start of school approaches, Osterholm urges parents to buy high-quality masks

Dr. Michael Osterholm is worried that some districts aren't properly prepared.

masks, schools

American Academy of Pediatrics urges masks for kids ages 2+ in schools

The MDH is working with MDE on health and safety guidelines for the upcoming school year.


7th Minnesota school employee dies from COVID-19

The death was confirmed by the health department.

covid, schools

405 schools now on COVID outbreak list as virus surges among students, staff

A school staff member was among those whose death from COVID was reported in the past week.

covid, kids

As school sets to return, Mayo Clinic expert says get vaccinated or get COVID-19

Most kids in Minnesota will head back for in-person learning within a few weeks.

Governor Tim Walz

Governor Walz to announce 'sweeping' education plan Monday

The governor will address Minnesota at 2 p.m. Monday.

Albert Lea High School

Albert Lea COVID-19 outbreak: 36 students test positive, 290 quarantined

The outbreak happened within the first week back to school.