The Biden administration has announced plans to provide schools with an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests each month as part of the effort to keep them open even as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S.
In an effort to support “test to stay” programs, which involve utilizing regular testing over quarantining students who have been exposed to the virus, the White House plans to distribute 5 million rapid tests and 5 million PCR tests on a monthly basis. The tests would be funded through the American Rescue Plan, and shipments could be sent out as soon as later this month.
“These additional tests will help schools safely remain open,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our children have an opportunity to stay in school”: @SecCardona shares details on the Biden administration's plans to give schools an additional 10 million free COVID tests per month. pic.twitter.com/Xw65nnZmTv— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) January 12, 2022
When POTUS took office, just 46% of schools were open in person— Ian Sams (@IanSams) January 12, 2022
So Biden got $120B for schools in American Rescue Plan to get ‘em open
(Every Republican opposed ARP)
Now 96% of schools are open in person—and Biden sending 10M more tests/mo to stay openhttps://t.co/Ca4wVXK5Sm
President Joe Biden has remained adamant that schools should stay open despite the large wave of Omicron cases.
The move is being applauded by health experts, who feel it is a step in the right direction to help mitigate the spread of the virus, but without a detrimental impact on education.
“Providing more rapid tests in schools is important to reduce spread in schools and back home, as well as to teachers, staff and bus drivers,” Julia Raifman, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told The Washington Post.
The announcement comes as tests have proven hard to come by, and after a survey conducted by the Post in September found that, at the time, only four of the nation’s 20 largest school districts were screening asymptomatic students, and the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that only 14 out of 100 large and urban districts were screening students on a routine basis.
Some schools have been worried about the possibility of needing to shut down again, even though 96% of schools are now open for in-person learning, as opposed to 46% in January 2021. Most have been concerned due to shortages in testing, as well as staff who have come down with the virus.
“I’m hearing from schools in my state that they’re worried they’ll have to shut down again if they can’t get support for testing they need or they have staff shortages because of staff who are ill,” Rep, Patty Murray, D-Wash., told the Post, adding we must be “focused on solutions” when talking about these problems.
Some districts have taken precautionary measures as cases spike, with districts in Atlanta delaying in-person learning at the start of the year, while Washington D.C. students were required to provide proof of a negative test before returning from winter break. CNN reports that in New York City, students who test positive are now being given a week’s worth of at-home tests so they can better figure out when they can return to school.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 screenings should be offered to students at least once a week when the transmission rate is at moderate or even high levels.