Biden administration to send 10 million free COVID tests to schools monthly
With schools closures again mounting in all parts of the country, the Biden-Harris administration hopes to counter omicron with a barrage of COVID testing.
Saying he is determined to keep classrooms open for in-person learning, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that schools will begin receiving an additional 10 million COVID tests every month.
“These additional tests will help schools safely remain open and implement screening testing and test-to-stay programs,” the administration said. “We know how to keep students and staff safely in school—including through vaccinations and boosters, implementing universal indoor masking, maintaining physical distancing, improving ventilation, and performing COVID-19 screening testing.”
The new shipments will double the volume of testing that was taking place in November. Some 96% of schools are open in-person this month, compared to 46% of schools in January 2021, the administration says.
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Schools will receive five million no-cost rapid tests each month to sustain screening and test-to-stay programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously distributed $10 billion to states to support school COVID testing. The agency will also deliver additional tests later this month to states that request them for high-need school districts.
Schools also now have immediate access to another five million free, lab-based PCR tests to conduct individual and pooled testing. These tests will come from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Operation Expanded Testing program.
Here are the other elements of the enhanced testing initiative:
- New training and resources for test-to-stay: Later this week, the CDC will release additional materials for schools on how to implement test-to-stay programs, including a school checklist and frequently asked questions and answers. Additionally, the Department of Education and CDC will provide additional training for states and school districts in implementing test-to-stay.
- Connecting schools with testing providers: The Department of Education and the CDC will work with outside organizations to help districts partner with more local testing providers that have been contracted by their states to conduct COVID testing in schools. The agencies are also increasing guidance to schools in using American Rescue Plan funds to set up testing programs.
- Federal surge testing units: Federal agencies are now working with local officials to open surge testing sites in the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. This could include locating federal testing units on or near schools, scheduling specific operating hours for students, their families, and school staff, or committing a portion of daily testing to school communities.
The administration also noted that FEMA’s Public Assistance Program is providing 100% reimbursement to schools that set up diagnostic and screening testing programs.
“Students have sacrificed so much over the course of the pandemic, and the president has been clear in his words and his actions that his administration will do all that it can to keep schools safely open for all students,” the administration said.
The new testing regimen was praised on social media by education leaders, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
Today’s commitment is a major step forward in enabling school districts who have struggled to secure the tests teachers and staff rely on to see what’s unseen. https://t.co/oR25pCqsmy
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) January 12, 2022