NEW YORK – The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it will increase access to school testing for COVID-19 by providing an additional 10 million tests per month.
Under the new plan, the White House will send 5 million free rapid point-of-care tests per month to implement and sustain screening programs as well as test-to-stay programs designed to teach students in schoolrooms safely. States can submit requests to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive additional tests for high-need school districts, the administration said in a statement. After initial requests are submitted, the first test shipments will be delivered later in January.
The White House will also provide an additional 5 million laboratory-based PCR tests for schools to perform both individual and pooled testing through the US Department of Health and Human Services' Operation Expanded Testing program. Schools will immediately be able to access this testing, the administration said.
In addition, the government will deploy federal surge testing units to support testing access for students and staff at community testing sites. Both HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have enacted federal sites to ensure high-risk communities have access to free testing, and as those agencies review requests for additional sites, they will "consider how these sites can support the safe operations of K-12 schools," the administration said. Some of those considerations could include putting federal testing units on or near school campuses; establishing specific operating hours for students, families, and staff; or dedicating a daily portion of testing to school communities.
The US Department of Education and the CDC will also work with states and other organizations to connect schools with testing providers available in their states and help them set up testing programs. Later this week, the CDC plans to release additional guidance to help schools implement test-to-stay programs, which would allow students to stay in school after an exposure if they wear masks and test negative at least twice in the week after exposure.