California school system sends every student and staff home with a Covid-19 antigen test for the holidays

For schools in Marin County, California, home testing is nothing new for their teachers and students, Superintendent Mary Jane Burke told CNN.

The school system used the tests throughout the year and during Thanksgiving, but since they were rare, they were only used for those with symptoms – an issue they intended to address for the holidays. ‘winter.

“It’s been a good strategy for us, so it makes everyone feel comfortable, and you get the information right away instead of waiting for a PCR test, where people don’t go to school, and our goal was been to keep the kids inside school, ”Burke said.

On December 1, the California Department of Public Health sent a note saying it had a better supply of the test and asked how much the school system needed. Since they had tested and followed the information, Burke said she knew exactly what to ask.

“We knew we needed exactly 47,000 tests,” she said. “This includes all of our public, private, independent, parochial … everyone in the county.”

Each child and staff member will receive a test, and they have received an email giving them instructions in English and Spanish on how to administer the test, as well as a way to call for help. they needed it.

“So our hope is that since we have the availability of the tests, we will force everyone to take a test before they go back to school, including teachers and staff,” said Burke.

The success of the initiative from day one of the pandemic has been the county public health department, and Burke said they wouldn’t be where they are without the help of the county public health official, Dr. Matt Willis.

In fact, it was the health department that informed a county elementary school that a child who tested positive was still attending school.

“We recognized that the tests were going to be critical,” Willis told CNN. “The fact that we were able to take tests when a child developed symptoms or a staff member developed symptoms was critical, so we did home testing throughout the process.”

Willis said that while some question the sensitivity of home testing as opposed to PCR, home testing is great for what concerns them most; how contagious an individual is. Not to mention that some low-income families do not have direct access to PCR testing, and home testing is helping close the gap.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot by sticking to this expectation of really relying on PCR testing, and it was part of our innovation to rely on home testing as much as possible,” said Willis. “I think there was this feeling that it was too complex. But it’s totally manageable for families.”

However, Willis said PCR testing is not out of the question. In fact, a home test may require a follow-up PCR in some cases.

The partnership between the public health department and the education system, Burke said, not only helped try to keep children in school, but also provided key information to help the two entities identify where the spread is. product and build trust with the community.

“We all make it a priority for the safest place for children to be in school, and we’ve made it a priority from day one of the shutdown,” said Burke. “Plus our vaccination rates are incredible. We’re at the top (60%) with our 5-11 year olds with no side effects.”

It’s a feat Burke attributes to the partnership with the public health department.

Chicago and Massachusetts are also distributing tests

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will distribute 150,000 tests to the most vulnerable students on December 28, according to CNN affiliate WLS.

“Research shows us that most of the cases of COVID that we see in CPS are not due to the spread in school. They are due to social situations like games and family reunions that have less protections. in place as our schools, ”said Pedro Martinez, CEO of CPS. WLS. “We know families will be gathering for the holidays, so we are offering these tests to our students who may be most at risk, so we can reduce the spread of COVID and protect our school communities. ”

Families who do not take a test are always encouraged to test their children before returning to class.

Likewise, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has identified 102 cities in the state most at risk for the spread of Covid and released home tests for each of them on Monday.

Revere Public School is one of the schools receiving tests and the plan is for all 7,600 students to bring one home, city director of public health Lauren Buck told the affiliate. from CNN, WBZ.

The governor said there is also a plan for cities that do not receive state tests. They will be able to purchase them on behalf of their residents by January.

“These tests will be especially useful as the holiday season approaches. People can use them to check for the virus which they can safely collect with family and friends,” Baker said.

CDC agrees testing is key to keeping kids in school

CNN medical analyst Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, said measures implemented by school systems can certainly help to follow the transmission and eliminate the need for masking, a controversial subject since the students returned to class.

“Regular surveillance testing of asymptomatic people is an important layer of protection. Vaccination and testing is enough to replace the need for a mask,” Wen said.

This is why you can't find rapid at-home Covid tests in America

“We have to do home testing as the norm, before the kids go to school, before families get together, and so on,” she added.

The FDA has cleared 14 over-the-counter options for rapid tests, making it difficult for Americans to have regular access to antigen testing, and cost has also been an issue.
Rapid, at-home testing could become routine if manufacturers can get the green light and keep the tests on the shelves.

The CDC agrees that testing is essential to keeping children in school by releasing new information on a practice known as testing to stay.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday that it works to keep children in classrooms safe, even if they have been exposed to the virus that causes Covid-19.

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