Minnesota introduces new, free COVID-19 testing choices for schools

Paula Carlsen

ST. PAUL, MN - The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education announced improvements to the state's statewide education testing program on August 17. Schools will now choose from several testing choices as they seek to build local testing programs that keep children and staff healthy, safe, and in their classrooms. MDE will also provide grants to support school-based testing programs.

Individual polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, pooled PCR tests, and fast tests—both antigen and molecular—will be available to schools this school year. Districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic schools will determine which tests are most appropriate for their school community and establish their own testing program independently. Testing in schools is strongly suggested in light of the recent increase in Delta variant instances.

Testing at school makes access to exams more egalitarian, which is one of the many reasons the State of Minnesota encourages and assists all schools in developing their own testing program. Schools will be able to construct their own testing programs by selecting from the following tests:

  • BinaxNOW Professional and Over-the-Counter: individual, rapid antigen test.
  • Cue: individual rapid molecular nasal swab test.
  • Vault: a molecular saliva test for each individual.
  • Battelle: molecular nasal swab pooled test.
  • Hot Spot Testing: Schools can collaborate with their local public health or MDH to request a temporary testing location in response to local epidemics.

MDE will make grants available to support COVID-19 testing in schools. A grant is available to any school district, charter school, tribal school, or nonpublic school that offers a testing program. Grant funds can be used to support, administrate, and execute testing and purchase tests from a vendor.

How Minnesota residents can obtain a complimentary COVID-19 test:

  1. Request a test through the state's no-cost COVID-19 at-home testing program.
  2. Utilize the state's Find Testing Locations map to locate a testing location near you.
  3. Walk-in or make an appointment for a test at one of the state's free community testing centers located around the state.

Minnesotans can acquire their free shot in the following ways:

  1. Walk-ins are welcome, or appointments can be made through the Vaccine Connector.
  2. To locate a vaccine provider near you, use the state's Vaccine Locator Map.
  3. Vaccine appointments can be found via the Vaccine Finder. Appointments can be searched by vaccine kind (e.g., Pfizer).
  4. Consult your primary care provider or a local pharmacy for assistance.
  5. Employers may also contact you to discuss vaccine opportunities.

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