WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The White House announced Wednesday it is beefing up COVID-19 testing for schools in a bid to keep them open amid rising coronavirus cases nationwide and the omicron variant.
The dedicated stream of 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests would be available to schools starting this month, the White House said. However, some schools across the country have adopted mandatory testing to attend a class every day, but how effective has it been?
Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-biggest school district, paid more than $150 million for its widespread, school-based testing program. LAUSD has both testing sites where testing appointments can be scheduled as well as take-home test kits available.
Each week, more than 600,000 students and roughly 73,000 employees are tested for COVID-19. After winter break, students and staff had to show an additional negative COVID-19 test result to enter campus. More than 16% of students ended up testing positive and went straight into quarantine to prevent an outbreak.
Smaller school districts like District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C., also required mandatory testing to return after winter break, Those measures caught positive cases in about 6% of students and as a result, almost all of the district’s classes were in person.
D.C. officials said the winter program was so successful, they’re adopting the same program again for every future school break. The simple answer is this: testing works – but the cost to fund it is something each district has to consider.
The new crop of tests released by the White House is enough to cover only a small fraction of the more than 50 million students and educators in the nation’s schools. The administration hopes the tests will fill critical shortfalls in schools that are having difficulty securing tests through existing federal funding or are facing outbreaks of the more transmissible COVID-19 variants.
The White House says states will be able to request the tests immediately and the tests will be available for use by the end of the month.