(CTN News) – The federal government will soon begin offering schools the opportunity to order free fast COVID-19 testing.
As we head into winter, when COVID-19 participation is likely to be at its highest, the administration’s program will make millions of exams available to school districts. According to statistics from wastewater treatment facilities and emergency department visits, cases are already rising in the United States.
The administration has announced that schools would be able to start ordering COVID-19 Tests in early December.
The ability for 19,000 school districts to order tests directly from a federal stockpile is a first, according to Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response within the Department of Health and Human Services. This follows some smaller efforts to distribute rapid tests to schools.
O’Connell, head of the HHS section known as the Administration for Strategic Response and Preparedness, expressed his desire to implement the testing in communities, particularly now that we are in the fall and winter.
Although many schools have eased up on COVID regulations and testing procedures since the pandemic’s peak, according to O’Connell, there is still a lot of interest in testing in schools.
“We are optimistic that the school districts across the country will take advantage of these free COVID-19 Tests and put them to use,” according to her.
It is up to the individual schools to decide how they will use the tests. According to O’Connell, they will “encourage” school districts to distribute them to community members, faculty, and students.
“I can imagine a situation where a student in one of the classes has COVID and a teacher sends everybody home with a COVID test in their backpack,” according to her.
Despite claims to the contrary in certain polls, the federal government is making strides to increase testing in community settings through this initiative.
Over half of people aren’t protecting themselves from COVID this season, according to a new poll by the nonprofit KFF. According to that survey, just 1 in 5 people get a COVID test before seeing loved ones.
Approximately four million free tests are being delivered to neighborhood health centers, food banks, and long-term care facilities. According to the federal government, U.S. households can now obtain four more free at-home tests in addition to the four made available earlier this fall.
“We don’t want anyone’s ability to pay for the test to be an obstacle,” according to O’Connell.
It is anticipated that the school project will continue into the winter months. Schools must only place test orders for the number of exams they anticipate using in the next three weeks.
Nate Hafer, a professor of molecular medicine at UMass Chan Medical School, has researched the performance of rapid testing in identifying infections with delta and omicron variations. He believes that despite new omicron variants in circulation, rapid antigen COVID-19 Tests are still well.
“These COVID-19 Tests are able to detect the variants that are circulating out in the world today,” Hafer adds.
Symptoms must already be present for rapid antigen COVID-19 Tests to be effective. He adds that in the early stages of an infection, a person can test negative even though they are infected.
“If you are negative, but you have symptoms or if you’ve been exposed to somebody that you know has SARS-CoV-2, test again 48 hours later,” Hafer advises. “Testing multiple times is really the best way to be most sure about whether or not that you were infected.”