LA school district unveils coronavirus testing, contact tracing program for students, staff

LA school district unveils coronavirus testing, contact tracing program for students, staff
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The Los Angeles Unified School District on Sunday unveiled a plan to provide regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to school staff, students and their families. 

The plan will begin Monday in a measured fashion, with the first test provided to staff already working at schools and their children. The program will then be expanded to provide testing to all staff and students over time, with a goal in the early phase to establish a baseline, the district said in a release

The goal is to implement the program to help get students back into school for in-person instruction as the district is set to begin the school year with virtual learning. 

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“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement. “This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area.”

“This program will also provide significant education benefits for students by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there. We hope this effort also will provide learnings which can benefit other school systems and communities across the nation as we all combat this pandemic,” Beutner added. 

The program is in collaboration with scientists from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft and healthcare companies Anthem Blue Cross and Health Net. 

Stanford, UCLA and Johns Hopkins will provide a strategic interpretation of the evidence on testing and epidemiological modeling services pro bono. Microsoft will provide an app that will allow school administrators and health officials to track insights into trends and potential risks to help manage COVID-19 exposures and cases. 

Beutner did not identify the source of funding for the program. The plan to test all students and staff will cost roughly $300 per student over a year, close to $150 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. The district has received hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars for its coronavirus response efforts, the newspaper noted. 

Last month the Los Angeles school district, along with San Diego, said they will start instruction in August virtually amid an outbreak of the virus across California.