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MDH, North High School boys basketball team pair-up for athletes to be tested for COVID-19

Officials are encouraging 12-25-year-olds to get tested to stop the spread and keep youth sports going.

COVID-19 kept a lot of students from playing sports last year. Many of them are now just starting their seasons again, like the basketball team at Minneapolis North High School.

They are partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health to encourage youth and young athletes to get regularly tested for COVID-19, particularly people 12 to 25 who are more likely to be asymptomatic.

"We want to make sure they are safe, but we also want to make sure they are not spreading the disease to those who may be more vulnerable," said the MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff.

Until their new season started on January 25, 2002, the North Polar boys basketball team hadn't played for more than 300 days. They have a long tradition of winning and took the abrupt cancelation of their last season especially hard.

"We want to play in the state tournament and realize the numbers have got to go down," said longtime coach Larry McKenzie about reported numbers of positive COVID-19 cases. MDH is reporting 1,145 cases on Friday and says the state is seeing a downward trend.

Coach McKenzie's team does take extra precautions - they always wear masks, they don't travel more than 50 miles, the gym has an air purifier and basketballs are frequently sanitized.

Getting a COVID-19 test can be uncomfortable, but they're free and there are hundreds of sites across Minnesota. Polar star power forward Davon Townley says it's worth it.

"If we don't follow the rules of social distancing or keeping our masks on, they can take our season away again," said Townley. "Having a team is important because it's like having a second family," he said.

The team's next game is on Tuesday and they hope to play in the state tournament at the beginning of April.

If you're interested, there is a new testing site that opens this weekend at the Davis Center in Minneapolis and everyone is welcome.

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