The administration will distribute 5 million free rapid tests and 5 million free PCR tests to schools each month, according to an administration fact sheet.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will set up “surge” test sites in high-transmission communities. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will partner with the U.S. Department of Education to help connect school districts with test providers with whom their states have already contracted to set up Covid-19 tests in schools.
“The students have sacrificed so much during the pandemic, and the president has been clear in his words and actions that his administration will do everything it can to keep the schools safely open to all students,” the fact sheet states.
The announcement comes as the number of U.S. patients hospitalized with Covid-19 reaches record highs, with many parents wondering about their children’s safety. Public health experts have repeatedly stressed the need for extended Covid-19 testing in schools, but it is unclear what effect the administration’s recent efforts will have had on the number of students left in the classroom. About 53 million students attended K-12 public schools in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
According to the CDC
, Covid-19 screening tests should be offered to students at least once a week when community transfer is at moderate, significant, or high levels.
Some cities and school districts are already taking aggressive measures as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country.
Several school districts in the Atlanta area are delaying personal tuition and starting 2022 with distance learning. In Washington, DC, public school students and staff must show evidence of negative Covid-19 tests before returning from winter vacation.
And in New York City, public school students who test positive will get a one-week home test so they can know when it’s safer to return to school.
In line with its recent quarantine and isolation recommendations, the CDC updated its Covid-19 prevention guidelines in K-12 schools earlier this month. Students, teachers and staff with Covid-19 should stay home and isolate themselves away from others for at least five days, the guide states. Day 0 is considered the first day of symptoms or the day of a positive viral test for people who have no symptoms.
People whose symptoms improve can leave isolation after five full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours, the CDC said. They should wear masks around others for another five days.
CNN’s Holly Yan and John Bonifield contributed to this report.