By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With Minnesota experiencing increased community spread of COVID-19, especially among younger individuals, state officials are urging regular testing in schools. The effort comes as state health officials reported nearly 2,000 additional cases and 10 more deaths linked to the virus.

On Thursday, Minnesota’s departments of health and education announced updated guidance to support COVID-19 testing for students in both middle and high school — and those who participate in youth sports.

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All those who participate in youth sports are encouraged to test weekly, and those in school who are not in sports are encouraged to test every two weeks.

“The last month plus has been very worrisome – especially among younger Minnesotans,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “Just this week, we saw the number of school-related COVID-19 cases in students exceed the high set in November during the fall surge.”

Malcolm says the state is making progress with vaccinations, but there are many people who remain susceptible to the virus and regular testing is key to slowing the virus’ spread.

“By testing and catching cases before they spread, we give schools and students the best chance for in-person learning, full sports seasons, and other activities that are so important,” Malcolm said.

In order to make it easier for students and school staff to test, the Minnesota Department of Education is advising middle and high schools to provide testing onsite.

MDH RELEASES LATEST COVID STATS

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In the Minnesota Department of Health’s Thursday update, 10 additional deaths and 1,973 virus cases were reported. There have now been 7,054 deaths and 563,420 virus cases tallied since the beginning of the pandemic.

For vaccinations, over 53% of eligible Minnesotans have had at least one dose, which is about 2.35 million people; 38% of the eligible population, or 1.67 million people, have completed their vaccine series.

Nearly 86% of people 65 years of age and older in the state have received at least one vaccine dose.

For the first time since early March, the state’s latest positivity rate has decreased to 7.3% as of April 13, due to data lag. The positivity rate increased from 3.5% at the beginning of March to 7.4% recorded in April 12.

Case growth, hospitalization rate and community spread continue to be concerns and in the “high risk” category.

In hospitals as of Wednesday, there are 196 people with the virus requiring intensive care unit beds. Current ICU hospitalizations dropped below 50 in early March but have increased to levels not seen since late last year. There are 487 patients with the virus who are in non-ICU unit beds.

Nearly 29,500 people have required hospitalization since the start of the pandemic. More than 6,000 patients have needed intensive care.

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About 538,450 people who contracted the virus no longer need to isolate themselves.