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White House Rolls Out New Actions to Increase COVID-19 Testing in Schools

NEW YORK – Following President Joe Biden's COVID-19 Action Plan announced last month, the White House announced on Friday a series of new actions to increase COVID-19 screening testing in schools.

The US Department of Education and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will partner with the Rockefeller Foundation to help schools set up screening testing programs, the White House said in a statement.

The partnership will "further expand the reach of federal and state partners in helping more school and district leaders navigate the setup and ongoing operations of school testing programs," the administration said.

Some of the initiatives the agencies and the foundation are collaborating on include holding weekly office hours to connect schools to national testing program experts with advice on how to set up testing programs. The group will hold twice-weekly sessions through December featuring experts both within and outside of the US government that will help schools develop and execute plans for screening testing programs.

The Rockefeller Foundation has also released a new startup guide to identify key steps schools can take to launch testing programs. Those steps include connecting to a testing provider, learning about different testing options, and developing a plan and team to administer testing.

Beyond working with the Rockefeller Foundation, the CDC will make staff available to state health departments to coordinate, execute, and expand on school-based COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and other public health activities, the White House said. The staff will be able to lead testing expansion, hire liaisons to support local school districts, and dispatch disease investigation specialists, case investigators, and nurses to deal with outbreaks.

The CDC has also launched a directory and website to point schools to test providers they can work with to set up testing programs.

The Department of Education, meantime, has released a fact sheet on how funding from the American Rescue Plan and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding can be used to incentivize parents or guardians whose children participate in screening testing.