COVID-19 Testing During the 2021-22 School Year - Minnesota Dept. of Health

COVID-19 Testing During the 2021-22 School Year

Information on this page will help families, educators, and school staff learn about COVID-19 testing guidance, the value of testing, and the variety of testing options the State of Minnesota is making available for the 2021-22 school year.

In-person education and learning is critical to a child's well-being and academic success. Testing in K-12 schools remains a powerful tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19 as part of a broader COVID-19 mitigation strategy. As outlined in Best Practice Recommendations for COVID-19 Prevention in Schools for the 2021-22 School Year (PDF), testing, vaccination, and other prevention strategies should be used to help keep students and educators healthy this school year. The state is working to ensure that students and school staff have the resources they need to access COVID-19 testing for the 2021-22 school year.

On this page:
School testing recommendations and options
    Testing recommendations
    Testing options
    Why we test
School testing program
    Screening testing versus symptomatic testing
    Available testing resources
    Determining which test to use and when
Reporting
Privacy, confidentiality, and legal considerations
Grants
Technical assistance on COVID-19 testing
Additional guidance and resources

School testing recommendations and options

Why we test

  • Regular testing can help identify new cases and their contacts early, which can prevent spread in the classroom and the community.
  • Preventing COVID-19 spread helps keep kids and staff healthy and in their classrooms.
  • Testing in schools can help to ensure convenient and equitable access to testing.
  • Testing supports schools in providing healthy learning environments.

Testing recommendations

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommend screening testing for unvaccinated children and staff participating in in-person learning. The frequency of testing depends on community transmission levels and participation in low-risk and high-risk sports. Refer to CDC: Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools Appendix 2: Testing Strategies for more information.
  • Children and staff who travel should get tested consistent with travel requirements or recommendations.
  • Children and staff should consider testing after taking part in events that do now allow for physical distancing, as these events put them at higher risk of COVID-19 infection (e.g., large social or mass gatherings).
  • All children and staff, regardless of vaccination status, should get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

More information can be found at:

Testing options

There are many ways to get tested for COVID-19 and the following options are available at no cost to Minnesotans.

  • The state is providing free testing options for schools to offer to students and staff.
    • All schools are strongly encouraged to offer testing options and share information with parents/guardians and staff, including how consent for testing will be obtained.
  • COVID-19 Community Testing Sites across Minnesota offer free tests.
  • People may go to Find Testing Locations to find testing offered at local pharmacies and health care facilities.
  • Families may also use the free COVID-19 Vault Saliva Testing at Home program to have a test mailed to them.

School testing program

The State of Minnesota has improved its statewide education testing program for the 2021-22 school year. While the state will make a variety of testing options accessible to schools, it is up to local districts and schools to decide which tests best fit the needs of their student populations and communities.

School districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic schools can choose to participate in different parts of Minnesota's statewide testing program to access the available resources.

The goals of the testing program are to:

  • Keep Minnesota's students in their classrooms.
  • Decrease COVID-19 spread in the school and in the community.
  • Increase access to testing for all.
  • Provide schools with local control to institute a testing program that meets the needs of their students and families.

To meet these goals, the state has expanded testing options available to schools and is continuing its work to remove barriers and increase flexibility so students, school staff, and families have access to testing.

Screening testing versus symptomatic testing

This school year, school districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic schools have the opportunity to determine what, if any, kind of testing program they would like to implement. These programs can include screening testing, symptomatic testing, or both.

Screening testing

Screening testing is a program where unvaccinated students and staff without symptoms or known exposures are tested regularly. Screening testing is a tool to reduce spread of the virus from people who are asymptomatic. CDC and MDH recommend screening testing unvaccinated students and school staff. The frequency of testing depends on community transmission levels and participation in low-risk and high-risk sports and activities. Visit CDC: Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools for more information on recommendations and to access existing testing toolkits and playbooks to inform testing program design.

Symptomatic testing

Isolation and testing of symptomatic people helps to minimize spread of COVID-19 in schools. Schools should follow the Recommended COVID-19 Decision Tree for People in Schools, Youth Programs, and Child Care Programs (PDF) for symptomatic people. If a student, educator, or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, school staff should use the COVID-19 Case Report Form for K-12 Schools, Childcares, and Youth Programming (Camps, Sports, Extracurricular Activities) to report each positive test result.

For more information on how to respond to confirmed cases of COVID-19 and to notify your school community, review the Best Practices for Handling a Confirmed Case of COVID-19 (PDF).

Testing contacts of cases (people) with recent exposure to a confirmed case

People who have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 (contacts) are at increased risk for COVID-19 and can spread the virus. Refer to Best Practices for Handling a Confirmed Case of COVID-19 (PDF).

Testing of contacts (even if they do not have symptoms) is an important strategy for limiting spread in schools. More information on what to do and when to test contacts is available at Close Contacts and Quarantine: COVID-19.

Available testing resources

Minnesota schools have multiple testing options. In-depth guidance on implementation, including how to order and administer each test, is available in the documents linked below. Tests include molecular and antigen tests. In general, antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR tests, meaning they can produce results that are false negatives. For all test options below, schools must follow the applicable requirements in the manufacturer instructions and Federal Drug Administration authorization.

Note that each testing option will have varying availability, due to supply fluctuations.

  • Midwest Coordination Center Pool Testing Information (PDF)
    • Pooled PCR nasal swab or saliva test that can be used as a screening tool to identity asymptomatic cases.
    • Tests, supplies, and shipping are funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
    • Tests are self-administered under supervision of trained staff.
    • Schools will need to request from the Midwest Coordination Center with at least two-week lead time.

  • Vault Testing Information (PDF) (available only until Jan. 31, 2022)
    • Individual PCR saliva test.
    • Tests can be sent home with students or staff.
    • These tests already exist onsite for schools that participated in the state's testing program last year. Test kits currently located in schools will be converted to zoom-enabled test kits. Schools are able to continue to use these test kits until the school's supply is exhausted.
    • If schools have unused Vault saliva test kits that they do not plan to use by Jan. 31, 2022, the school must send those unused tests back to the State of Minnesota.

  • Cue Testing Information (PDF)
    • Individual rapid molecular nasal swab test that schools may use onsite for symptomatic students or staff that may also be used for asymptomatic students or staff (e.g., screening testing for students in extracurricular activities).
    • This test is currently funded by HHS through approximately early spring of 2022.
    • This test requires a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) Certificate of Waiver when a school chooses to administer the test or assist with interpreting results, even where the test is designated for over-the-counter use. Schools that do not have a CLIA Certificate of Waiver must obtain one as soon as possible. Effective Dec. 16, 2021, schools may not order or perform additional tests without a CLIA Waiver.
    • To obtain a CLIA Certificate of Waiver, schools may either apply for their own or use the MDH-provided statewide CLIA Certificate of Waiver. Once a CLIA Certificate of Waiver is approved, schools may order Cue tests at any time. Please review the information sheet above for additional CLIA Certificate of Waiver details.
    • Schools need to have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow applicable federal and state law, including any Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) worker protection standards. For more information, refer to OSHA: Emergency Temporary Standard, COVID-19 Healthcare ETS and CDC: Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.

  • BD Veritor At-Home COVID-19 Test Information (PDF)
    • Individual rapid antigen test kits containing two tests will be available to be sent home with students or staff, as schools request tests.
    • This test is for symptomatic students and staff and may be administered only at home.
    • Students can test if they are symptomatic and avoid potential spread in their school.
    • The state intends to provide enough tests for every student and staff, though supply volume from the test vendor will determine how many tests the state can distribute to schools.

  • BinaxNOW OTC At-Home Testing Information (PDF)
    • Individual rapid antigen test kits containing two tests will be available to be sent home with students, as schools request tests.
    • This test is for symptomatic students only and may be administered only at home.
    • Students may test if they are symptomatic and avoid potential spread in their school.
    • The state intends to provide enough tests for every student, though supply volume from the test vendor will determine how many tests the state can distribute to schools.

  • BinaxNOW Professional Testing Information (PDF)
    • Rapid antigen test intended for students and staff who develop symptoms while attending school and want testing before going home.
    • The test can also be used for screening when it is administered per manufacturer instructions. For example, with students who are in extracurricular activities and administered frequently (e.g., students who test two times/week).
    • This test requires an ordering provider.
    • This test requires a CLIA Certificate of Waiver. Please review the information sheet above for additional CLIA Certificate of Waiver details and to find an ordering provider.
    • Schools will need to apply for a CLIA Certificate of Waiver or use the MDH-provided statewide CLIA Certificate of Waiver. Once a CLIA Certificate of Waiver is approved, schools may order BinaxNOW professional tests at any time.
    • Schools need to have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow applicable federal and state law, including any OSHA worker protection standards. For more information, refer to OSHA: Emergency Temporary Standard, COVID-19 Healthcare ETS and CDC: Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.

  • Hot spot testing: Schools may work with their local public health or MDH to request a temporary testing location in response to local outbreaks. Hot spot testing may be requested by email to COVIDTesting.MDE@state.mn.us.

Determining which test to use and when

The testing options Minnesota is making accessible to schools have increased significantly from the 2020-2021 school year. The variety of tests provides local districts, charter schools, tribal, and nonpublic schools with the ability to design a testing program to help ensure children remain in the classroom. Below is a grid that lays out each option and offers guidance as to when a school may choose to use a specific test and with what population.

Scenario Midwest Coordination Center Pool Test
(nasal swab)
Vault Test
(saliva)
Cue Test
(nasal swab)
BinaxNOW professional Antigen Test
(nasal swab)
BD Veritor At-Home Antigen Test or BinaxNOW Over-the-Counter Antigen Test
(nasal swab)
Screening test (good for general screening of the school population) Yes Yes Yes Yes, but frequent testing, or confirmatory test, may be needed for negative results (e.g., Vault or Cue).* Yes (with same limitations as BinaxNOW professional).
However, with the limited supply available through the Minnesota testing program, tests are intended to be used for symptomatic students only.
Rapid test (good to use when you need quick results, 20 minutes or less) No No Yes Yes, especially in symptomatic people. May need follow-up test when there is a negative test result.* Yes, especially in symptomatic people. May need follow-up test when there is a negative test result.*
Diagnostic test (good to use when a person has symptoms) No Yes Yes Yes. Negative tests in symptomatic individuals should be confirmed by a molecular test.* Yes. Negative tests in symptomatic individuals should be confirmed by a molecular test.*
Uses for the test Test everyone on a regular basis. Test everyone on a regular basis.

Sports/ extracurricular testing with lead time.

Testing symptomatic students and staff of those who are close contacts of cases.
Sports/ extracurricular testing.

Testing symptomatic students and staff.
Testing symptomatic students and staff or those who are close contacts of cases.

If used for screening, best when there is frequent testing (2 times/week).
Have tests at home for families to test when symptoms are present.

* Refer to CDC: Interim Guidance for Antigen Testing for SARS-CoV-2

Reporting

Reporting of positive and negative test results is required and helps MDH and the CDC monitor COVID-19 case levels across the state and country. Local case-level data can help schools take more effective actions to slow the spread of virus in their communities.

Information regarding determining if a school needs to report and how to report for various tests can be found using the Updated K-12 School and Child Care COVID-19 Reporting Guidance (PDF).

To determine how schools need to report, consider the following:

Schools will need to register to use RePortal at Welcome to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) RePortal self-registration site. Once a school is registered, administrators will be able to upload a spreadsheet each day with COVID-19 testing information. A new spreadsheet must be used each day testing is conducted.

MDH has Excel spreadsheet templates available for schools for BinaxNow professional and Cue tests.

When completing the spreadsheet, the school is the lab and the ordering provider. The student/employee is the patient.

Once the spreadsheet is complete, administrators may save it and upload to the MDH RePortal. Please ensure submission is complete after uploading.

Additional information about RePortal can be found at Uploading Lab Results to MDH RePortal. Questions about the RePortal or COVID-19 test reporting can be emailed to Health.COVID-19.CaseIntake.Team@state.mn.us.

Privacy, confidentiality, and legal considerations

  • Schools are strongly encouraged to consult with legal counsel. The State of Minnesota cannot provide legal advice to schools or districts and this document should not be relied on as legal advice.
  • Schools should ensure that student and staff privacy is protected and should prohibit staff and others from accessing test information if they do not need the information to perform their duties.
  • Schools may be subject to federal and state laws that govern student and health care data. Different schools may have different federal and state obligations, including those that apply to student and health data. Schools must make sure they understand and follow these requirements, and give any disclosures or warnings required by law before collecting student information.
  • Depending on the test option, schools may need to ensure that the person being tested provides any necessary informed consent and health and/or student records releases. Each school must evaluate its own legal obligations and determine how to manage this process and ensure compliance with applicable law. Schools should encourage those who are unable to give informed consent to work with a parent or guardian.
  • Some testing options require informed consent to be given directly to an outside laboratory or provider. Schools may want to consider whether and how to verify that the person being tested has given informed consent before administering the test.
  • The State of Minnesota makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, regarding COVID-19 tests provided to schools, including the use, condition, and effectiveness of tests, or the accuracy of test results. The persons ordering and taking a test accept the test "as-is," and assume all risks associated with the test. The State of Minnesota assumes no responsibility for actual, consequential, incidental, special, or exemplary damages resulting from, caused by, or associated with any test.

Technical assistance on COVID-19 testing

MDH and Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) are working to provide resources and supports to ensure that schools can successfully run local testing programs. Webinars on school COVID-19 testing programs will be available on MDE: Health Resources for Schools. Regular trainings will be scheduled and communicated to school districts, charter schools, nonpublic schools, and tribal schools. Additionally, resources are included in the information sheets for each testing option to help guide implementation. Questions can be emailed to COVIDtesting.MDE@state.mn.us.

Grants

Every school district, charter school, and tribal school, and nonpublic school was eligible for a grant through MDE to support COVID-19 testing at the start of the 2021-22 school year. Grant money may be used to fund staff to support, administer, or execute testing, or to purchase tests through a vendor. Information and updates about the grant process will be regularly communicated to school districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic schools.

Applications are no longer being accepted for public school grants. School districts and charter schools that have received grants are reported at MDE: Local COVID-19 Response Data.

Nonpublic schools are eligible to apply for grants until January 10. Learn more about the nonpublic grants for COVID-19 school testing programs at MDE: Health Resources for Schools.

The ELC Reopening Schools Award is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $169,862,951, with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

Additional guidance and resources

Updated Friday, 07-Jan-2022 10:41:00 CST