by Kendall Tietz
President Joe Biden’s administration plans to provide millions of COVID-19 tests to K-12 schools each month, the White House said in a Wednesday statement.
This month, the Biden administration will start shipping five million rapid COVID-19 tests each month to K-12 schools across the country in an effort to keep schools open amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant, according to White House officials. The new tests will allow schools to double the “volume of testing” from November 2021.
The administration also plans to expand lab capacity to provide an additional five million tests per month so schools can “perform individual and pooled testing in classrooms nationwide.”
The five million tests would come as an addition to the more than $10 billion in resources distributed to states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) to ramp up testing in schools. The American Rescue Plan also included $130 billion in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund for the safe reopening of schools, the statement said.
“Through these new initiatives, the Administration will increase the number of COVID-19 tests available to schools by 10 million per month,” the White House said. “These additional tests will help schools safely remain open and implement screening testing and test to stay programs.”
The CDC has encouraged schools to implement the “test to stay” strategy “to minimize absenteeism and learning loss which can occur during traditional quarantine at home” by allowing students to say in school so long as they wear masks and receive multiple tests each week following exposure.
Later this week the CDC will provide more information on implementing the program, according to the administration’s statement.
Biden admitted last month that there are “clearly not enough” COVID-19 tests available to Americans, blaming the quick onset of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
“If I had – we had known, we would have gone harder, quicker if we could have,” Biden said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, also recognized that there “should have had more [COVID] tests available” during the holiday season. “Testing has always been an issue,” but recently the U.S. has “been compounded by the situation of high demands,” Fauci said.
“It’s been a very, very strong run on testing, and you know, obviously not making any excuses for it,” Fauci added. “We should have had more tests available, but hopefully now as we get into the first couple weeks in January, that’ll get much better.”
The White House statement highlighted vaccination and booster shots, universal indoor masking, physical distancing, ventilation and more COVID-19 testing as important measures to keep schools open. Federal surge testing sites will be set up to ensure “hardest-hit and highest-risk communities have equitable access to free and convenient testing,” the statement said.
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Kendall Tietz is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Child Receiving COVID Test” by Tomasz Działa. CC BY-SA 4.0.