ST PAUL, Minn. — The state of Minnesota will be providing free COVID-19 saliva tests for teachers, school staff members, and child care providers this fall.
The state said the tests are not required to return to work in a classroom or child care setting. Instead, state health officials encourage education and child care workers to take advantage of the free testing program when needed, such as in the event they have symptoms or believe they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
The free tests are limited to one per person, and are expected to be available to nearly 250,000 education and child care workers.
According to a news release, the $6 million cost will be largely covered through insurance and federal funding, though the state will cover any other situations to ensure the tests are free to education and child care workers.
“As a classroom teacher for more than 20 years and a parent of a child in public schools, I know that a safe classroom is the foundation for learning,” Governor Tim Walz said in a statement. “Those educating and caring for Minnesota’s next generation deserve the peace of mind that these COVID-19 tests will provide.”
“Our goal is to create safe in-person learning for as many children as possible, and saliva tests are one piece of the puzzle to support that plan,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is sending information for accessing the free tests to school districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and private schools to distribute to staff members. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is providing similar information to people working in licensed child care settings and child care centers.
Home schools are currently not covered by the free testing program.
The free saliva-based testing is part of the state's larger partnership recently announced with Vault Health and Infinity Biologix.
“Adding saliva testing to our testing ecosystem both grows and diversifies our testing capacity,” Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “Teachers, school staff, child care center employees have a responsibility to get tested if they believe they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or are feeling symptoms themselves. We hope this test will provide a convenient, reliable, and quick option for them.”
“Every single educator and school staff member across our state has worked tirelessly to prepare for the upcoming school year and we need to make sure we have their back,” said Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker.