The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that 10 million more COVID-19 tests will go to schools each month in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus and keep in-person classes going.
About 5 million free rapid tests and 5 million free PCR tests will go to schools each month.
“These additional tests will help schools safely remain open and implement screening testing and test to stay programs,” according to a statement issued by the White House.
“With the additional ten million tests per month, we will make available to schools more than double the volume of testing that took place in schools across the nation in November 2021,” the statement said.
For the free rapid tests, the CDC will work with states to submit requests for “high-need school districts that can put these tests immediately to use,” according to the announcement. After states submit their requests, the first shipments will be delivered later this month.
For the free PCR tests, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will deliver testing materials, supplies, and lab results through four regional lab hubs. Schools can gain access to the free lab-based testing right away, the announcement said.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will also set up “surge” testing sites in the “hardest-hit and highest-risk communities,” according to the announcement. The CDC will work with the U.S. Department of Education to connect school districts with testing providers in their state to set up testing in schools.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reach record highs across the country. Public health experts have called for expanded COVID-19 testing in schools to reach America’s more than 50 million K-12 students, according to CNN. The CDC recommends screening at least once per week when community transmission reaches moderate levels.
This week, some cities and school districts have taken actions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. Several Atlanta-area districts are delaying in-person classes and starting the year with remote learning, CNN reported.
In Washington, DC, public school students and staff must show proof of negative COVID-19 tests before returning to the classroom, according to the news outlet. . In New York City, public school students who test positive will receive a week’s worth of at-home tests so they know when to return to school.
Last month, the CDC released data about “test to stay,” programs, which allow students to remain in classrooms during their quarantine period as long as they wear masks and test at least two times in the 7 days after a COVID-19 exposure. Later this week, the CDC will give schools more information on how to start a test-to-stay program, the White House announcement 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 statement said.