With parents and school systems all across the country struggling to manage an increase in coronavirus cases, the White House announced it will be distributing 10 million more COVID-19 tests per month to schools nationwide to keep up with the intense demand.
The White House is still ironing out the details about how these tests will be used in schools and which schools will get them first.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients says the Biden administration is putting America’s laboratories to work, already devoting $10 billion to school-based COVID-19 tests.
“There is significant lab capacity in this country, so we are looking to take advantage of the lab capacity in the country,” Zients said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing Wednesday,
The White House says it will follow up soon with the schools that qualify for the tests, recognizing that schools are the hub of every community.
“The CDC and Department of Education are adding resources to help schools identify testing providers and implement best practices, and the federal government is funding and strongly encouraging these testing programs,” Zients said.
Members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team say the additional school based testing will double the volume of testing as compared to last year.
News4JAX asked Northeast Florida school districts about the new initiative. They told us that they’re still waiting on the details.
A spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools wrote, in part:
“COVID-19 testing has been part of our response in various ways since we re-opened for the first time back in fall of 2020. Testing of students and employees helps us to identify if symptomatic individuals have COVID-19 and need to isolate. All of this, as you know, helps to slow the spread, which is our ultimate goal during these surges and spikes.”
A spokesperson for the Nassau County School District said:
“The district has not sponsored any testing up to now, but has on occasion partnered with local health agencies to provide testing at several sites. We are just now learning of this new initiative and will be waiting to hear more before moving forward.”
Clay County District Schools sent News4JAX this statement:
“Clay County District Schools welcomes all additional measures to help keep our students and staff healthy as we continue to navigate the pandemic. There are protocols in place districtwide to help mitigate the spread of the virus, and the district will continue to partner closely with our local department of health to make decisions regarding COVID-19. Each school in the district has voluntary take-home testing kits for students and staff, and students and staff can receive a free PCR test at two locations in the county.”
News4JAX also checked with St. Johns County school officials, who told us they have not yet discussed Wednesday’s announcement.
Even though these additional tests are only enough to cover a fraction of the more than 50 million students and educators in the country, the administration hopes the test will fill critical shortfalls in schools that have been facing outbreaks and are having difficulty finding tests.