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Michigan athletes required to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests for practices, games

All high school athletes in Michigan will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
All high school athletes in Michigan will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.(whsv)
Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 1:52 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer attributes increasing COVID-19 case rates over the past few weeks partially to high school athletics, leading to stiffer testing requirements from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

All high school athletes will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing using rapid antigen kits to continue participating in practices and games. Athletes who test positive, have COVID-19 symptoms or get in close contact with someone who has the illness must be sent home to receive a traditional coronavirus test.

No increased restrictions on athletics were announced during Friday morning’s press conference, but Whitmer said state health officials will continue tracking key COVID-19 statistics and the spread of variants to guide Michigan’s response.

“Last week’s numbers are a reality check that COVID-19 is not yet behind us,” she said. “We may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel. And the only way out is to move forward and to do it together. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread and eliminate the virus as quickly as possible.”

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who is Michigan’s chief medical executive, said the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is increasing the fastest among the 10 to 19 year old age group. For the first time, the number of outbreaks tied to schools exceeded the number of outbreaks linked to nursing homes.

“Now this is a testament to how well we have done with vaccinating our staff and our residents and long-term care facilities,” Khaldun said. “But it also speaks to the risk we see with some of the activities children in this age group are engaging in.”

Health departments around Michigan were tracking 315 COVID-19 outbreaks involving school, club or recreational sports teams in January and February. Khaldun is concerned those outbreaks could affect education when athletes are required to stay home from school due to coronavirus illness or exposure.

Michigan has identified 756 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant in 31 counties, which is the second highest total in the U.S. behind Florida. Most of those cases spread in congregate care settings, Khaldun said, but the variant appears to be spreading freely in public.

The COVID-19 B.1.351 variant also has been identified in Michigan. Both variants appear to spread more easily from person to person, but they don’t appear to cause a more serious illness or increase the likelihood of death.

“We could potentially be at the beginning of another surge in Michigan,” Khaldun said. “How this plays out depends on what we all do collectively to protect ourselves and our families. Let’s not give up our fight.”

She and Whitmer again urged everyone in Michigan to wear face coverings in public, practice social distancing, wash hands often and get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

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