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

By Lauren M. Johnson, CNN

With Omicron variant While spreading rapidly across the United States, some school districts are sending Covid-19 antigen tests home over the holiday to help limit a spike when children return to school in January.

The school system includes Marin County Schools in California, Chicago Public Schools, several cities in Massachusetts, and the San Diego Unified School District.

Home testing is business as usual for Marin County California

For Marin County Schools in California, home tests are nothing new for teachers and their students, Superintendent Mary Jane Burke told CNN.

The school system used the tests during the year and during Thanksgiving, but because they were in short supply they were only used for people with symptoms – an issue they plan to fix for the holiday. winter.

“It’s a good strategy for us, so it puts people at ease and you get the information right away instead of waiting for a PCR test where people don’t go to school and their target. I’m keeping kids in school,” Burke said.

On December 1, the California Department of Public Health sent out a notice stating it had a better supply of the test and asking how much the school system needed. Since they’ve checked and tracked the information, Burke says she knows exactly what to ask for.

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

Each child and staff will receive a test and they are provided with an email with instructions in English and Spanish on how to take the test, along with how to call for help if they need it.

“Our hope is that we have the test in place to encourage people to take the test before they go back to school, including teachers and staff,” said Burke.

The initiative’s success since day one of the pandemic has been the county’s public health department, and Burke says they wouldn’t be in their place without the help of public health workers. county community, Dr. Matt Willis.

In fact, the health ministry informed a elementary school in the county a child who tests positive is still in school.

“We realized that testing was going to be very important,” Willis told CNN. “The fact that we are able to do tests when a child develops symptoms or an employee develops symptoms is important, so we did at-home testing throughout the trip. Street.”

Willis said that despite some doubts about the sensitivity of at-home tests as opposed to PCR, at-home tests are perfect for what interests them most; The way it is spread is an individual. Not to mention some lower income family There is no direct access to PCR testing, and home tests are helping to bridge the gap.

“We’ve shot ourselves in the foot by sticking to the real expectations that come from PCR testing, and that’s part of our innovation to really rely on at-home testing as much as we can,” said Willis. . “I think it feels like it’s too complicated. But totally manageable for families.”

Still, Willis said PCR tests are not out of the question. In fact, home testing may require a follow-up PCR in some cases.

The partnership between the public health department and the education system, Burke said, has helped not only in trying to keep children in school, but has also provided important information to help both organizations identify where the spread is occurring. out and establish trust with the community.

“We’ve all prioritized the safest place for children, school, and we’ve made that a priority from day one,” said Burke. “Also, our vaccination rates are amazing. We’re on the high end (60%) with kids ages 5 to 11 with no adverse reactions.”

It was a success that Burke credits for 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 to take the test on Dec. CNN affiliate WLS.

“Research shows us that most of the COVID cases that we see in CPS are not caused by transmission in schools. That’s because social situations like family outings and gatherings have fewer protective measures than our schools,” CPS Executive Director Pedro Martinez told WLS. “We know that families will be gathering during the holidays, so we are making these tests available to our students who may be most at risk, so we can reduce the spread of COVID and protect our school community.”

Families who do not pass the test are still encouraged to test their children before they return to the classroom.

Likewise, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker identified 102 cities in the state at greatest risk of spreading Covid and introduced home tests for each of them on Monday.

Revere Public School is one of the schools receiving the tests and the plan is for all 7600 students to take the test at home, the city’s director of public health said. Lauren Buck told CNN affiliate WBZ.

The governor said there is also a plan for cities that don’t receive tests from the state. They will be able to purchase them on behalf of their residents before January.

“These tests will be especially helpful as we head into the holiday season. People can use them to test for viruses that they can safely gather with family and friends,” Baker said.

CDC agrees testing is key to keeping kids in school

CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the Milken School of Public Health at George Washington University, said the measures are being taken by the school system. Learning to implement can certainly help track transmission and help eliminate the need to wear masks, a topic of controversy since students return to the classroom.

“Regular surveillance screening of asymptomatic individuals is an important layer of protection. Immunizations and testing are enough to replace having to wear a mask,” said Wen.

“We need to make home testing the norm, before children go to school, before families get together, etc.,” she added.

FDA has allowed 14 over-the-counter options for rapid tests, making it difficult for Americans to access antigen tests on a regular basis and cost is also an issue.

Check quickly and at home can become a habit if the manufacturers can get the green light and can keep the tests on the shelf.

CDC agrees testing is crucial to keeping kids in school reveals new information about a practice known as testing to stay.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say friday it works to keep kids in the classroom safe, even if they’ve been exposed to the virus that causes Covid-19.

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https://kesq.com/news/2021/12/18/california-school-system-is-sending-every-student-and-staff-member-home-with-a-covid-19-antigen-test-for-the-holidays/ California school system will send every student and staff home with Covid-19 antigen test for the holidays

DUSTIN JONES

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