January 12, 2022 — The Biden administration announced Wednesday that an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests will go to schools each month in an effort to limit the spread of the virus and continue in-person lessons.
About 5 million free rapid tests and 5 million free PCR tests will go to schools each month.
According to a statement from the White House, “these additional testing will help schools remain open safely and implement screening and testing to stay in programs.”
“With an additional ten million tests per month, we will provide schools with more than double the volume of tests conducted in schools across the country in November 2021,” the statement said.
For the free rapid tests, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will work with states to submit requests for “high-need school districts that can immediately put these tests to use,” according to the announcement. After countries place their orders, the first shipments will be delivered later this month.
For free PCR tests, the US Department of Health and Human Services will provide test materials, supplies and lab results through four regional laboratory centers. The announcement said schools could access free lab tests immediately.
According to the announcement, the Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA will also establish “surge” testing sites in “the hardest-hit and most-risk communities.” The CDC will work with the US Department of Education to connect school districts with test providers in their state to set up testing in schools.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reach record levels across the country. Public health experts have called for expanding COVID-19 testing in schools to reach more than 50 million K-12 students in America, according to CNN. The CDC recommends screening at least once a week when community transmission has reached moderate levels.
This week, some cities and school districts took action to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. CNN reports that many areas of the Atlanta area are delaying in-person lessons and starting the year with distance learning.
In Washington, D.C., public school students and staff must provide evidence of negative COVID-19 tests before returning to class, according to the news outlet. . In New York City, public school students who test positive will have tests at home for a week so they know when to go back to school.
Last month, the CDC released data on “survival testing” programs, which allow students to stay in classrooms during the quarantine period as long as they wear masks and get tested at least twice in 7 days after exposure to COVID-19. Later this week, the CDC will provide schools with more information on how to begin a survival testing program, said the White House announcement later this week.
“We know how to keep students and staff safe in school — including through vaccinations and boosters, applying blanket indoor masks, maintaining physical distancing, improving ventilation, and getting tested for COVID-19,” the statement said.