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Children and COVID-19 testing: What parents should know

The Minnesota Department of Health wants everyone returning to school, even the youngest students, to get tested.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health this week updated its recommendation for who should get tested for COVID-19.

The new recommendation encourages all children and college students returning to school and extracurricular activities to get tested, especially those ages 12 to 25. During a briefing Thursday, health officials said that's because that group is more independent and therefore likely to interact outside their household. 

But MDH wants everyone returning to school - even the youngest students - to get tested.

MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said he would recommend that children attending school in person get tested every two weeks to once a month. But he said the frequency should be determined by every family and their level of risk. 

"The frequency of testing is more dependent on what are the risks for you and your family? Are there people with underlying conditions, or grandparents, or elderly folks interacting with the children?" he said. "We have to look at what's practical. We have to look at what the risk is."

So what if a child gets COVID-19 in between tests and brings it to school? That could happen. But Huff says testing will still help before things get out of control.

"It enables us to detect outbreaks early so that we can prevent transmission," said Huff. "It may not be your child that has it, but if a child in your kid's classroom has it and that is detected in this screening then we're able to protect everyone in that school."

Huff said parents should determine which type of COVID-19 test, saliva or nasal, works best for their child. However, he noted that sometimes young children have trouble getting enough saliva for that test to work. 

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.

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