Biden to make 10M more COVID-19 tests available to schools per month

Youngstown City Health Department worker Faith Terreri grabs two at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out during a distribution event
Associated Press/David Dermer

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced plans to increase the COVID-19 tests available to schools by 10 million each month to help keep them physically open amid a new wave of cases fueled by the omicron variant.

The White House said the administration would send 5 million free, rapid tests to K-12 schools each month. The additional tests are designed to help support schools implement testing screening and “test to stay” programs, which involve using regular testing instead of quarantining for students who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

Additionally, the White House announced that the administration would make available 5 million lab-based PCR tests each month for schools to perform testing in classrooms. The tests would be funded by the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law.

President Biden has been adamant that schools can and should remain physically open in the U.S. during the current wave of COVID-19 cases, saying last week that they have the resources needed to keep students safe.

“Today the Biden-Harris Administration is doubling down on our commitment to keeping all schools safely open for full-time in-person learning by taking new action to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools,” reads a White House fact sheet announcing the new steps on Wednesday.

The Biden administration also plans to use federal “surge testing sites” to help support testing for schools by setting up locations near school grounds, establishing operating hours for students or allocating a portion of daily testing for school areas.

The White House also said the Education Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would work with states and outside organizations to help schools set up their own COVID-19 testing programs with funding already allocated in the coronavirus relief law.

The Biden administration is under pressure to do more to increase availability of COVID-19 testing after the country experienced a shortage of tests and heightened demand over the holiday season. The administration separately plans to send out 500 million rapid tests to Americans free of charge beginning this month.

Despite Biden’s push to keep schools open, some districts have temporarily moved to remote learning amid a spike in cases.

Chicago Public Schools have been in the spotlight amid a standoff between schools and the Chicago Teachers Union over COVID-19 safety protocols. The weeklong fight was resolved on Monday night when the Chicago Teachers Unions’ House of Delegates voted to suspend the remote work action, with classes resuming on Wednesday.

“We have been very clear publicly and privately that we want to see schools open,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday when asked about the situation in Chicago.

The White House fact sheet released Wednesday says that 96 percent of schools are physically open this month, compared with 46 percent last January.  

Tags COVID-19 tests Jen Psaki Joe Biden

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