NEW YORK – The National Institutes of Health on Thursday announced it is providing up to $33 million over two years to gather evidence on how to safely return students, teachers, and support staff to in-person schools in areas with vulnerable and underserved populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Funding for the Safe Return to School Diagnostics Testing Initiative is being provided to projects at 10 institutions in eight states. Made available by the American Rescue Plan, the awards are part of the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program, whose goal is to increase access to testing for SARS-CoV-2 in vulnerable and underserved populations.
Projects for the current initiative will combine frequent COVID-19 testing with safety measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the NIH said.
"Many children have inequitable access to reliable virtual learning, and it is important they are able to participate safely in person while also maintaining the health and safety of the of the school and general communities," Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, director of NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and co-chair of the RADx-UP program, said in a statement. "Establishing frequent COVID-19 testing protocols for schools in vulnerable and underserved communities is essential to the safe return to school effort, and these projects will inform decision makers on the best strategies to accomplish this."
Some of the projects will involve at-home COVID-19 testing, and others will use pooled, in-school testing, and participants will receive either a molecular or antigen tests. Parental consent will be obtained for children being tested, the NIH said.