Setting up testing for COVID-19 in schools is one of the most important things schools can do to contain the spread of COVID-19 amongst students and staff. Now, schools have a new tool they can use to keep learning in-person even if cases arise: test to stay.
Test to stay combines two important prevention strategies – contact tracing (identifying those who were exposed to COVID-19) and serial testing (repeated testing following exposure) at school – to contain spread of the virus while keeping kids safely in school. CDC studied test to stay approaches, and found that – when implemented along with other layered prevention strategies – test to stay limited transmission of COVID-19 in school buildings, while also saving valuable in-person learning time for students.
CDC emphasized some key actions for schools in implementing test to stay programs. These include frequent testing of close contacts after exposure – repeated at least twice during a seven-day period post-exposure; consistently wearing masks while in school; robust contact tracing to ensure that all close contacts are properly identified and notified of their exposure, and get tested; staying home and isolating for anyone who tests positive; and continued implementation of layered prevention strategies as described in the CDC K-12 guidance.
As you all know, the American Rescue Plan provided $130 billion for K-12 schools to implement mitigation strategies like test to stay, and an additional $10 billion dedicated specifically to school-based COVID-19 testing. Schools can work with their state and local health departments to get started on test to stay right away.
Please find links below to CDC resources on test to stay:
- What You Should Know About COVID-19 Testing in Schools | CDC
- Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 for School Administrators | CDC
- Frequently Asked Questions for Parents and Caregivers about COVID-19 Precautions in Schools | CDC
- Evaluation of Test to Stay Strategy on Secondary and Tertiary Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K–12 Schools — Lake County, Illinois, August 9–October 29, 2021 | MMWR (cdc.gov)
- Evaluation of a Test to Stay Strategy in Transitional Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Schools — Los Angeles County, California, August 16–October 31, 2021 | MMWR (cdc.gov)
- Science Brief: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs – Updated | CDC
- Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools | CDC
For parents, the message is consistent and clear: get your kids vaccinated.
The most important takeaway for parents remains the same: getting your child vaccinated is the best way to protect them from serious illness, and to keep them safely learning in school all school year long. Vaccination is still the most important defense in keeping our schools safe from COVID. The benefits are clear. If your child is vaccinated:
- They don’t have to quarantine after exposure to the virus, as long as they are not symptomatic.
- They do not need to participate in screening testing.
- They help keep kids safely in school and schools safely open, and help avoid activities they love – like playing sports and participating in extracurriculars – from getting canceled.
- And most importantly, they are protected from serious illness.
Already, nearly 6 million kids have gotten the extra protection of a vaccine. And we have 35,000 sites designed specifically for kids, and thousands of schools nationwide have set up school-located vaccine clinics to provide direct access to the COVID shot for families. So over the holidays, even more parents can take their kids to get vaccinated, or they can visit a new family site to get a child vaccinated and get a booster themselves.
For school staff and all eligible adults: get boosted.
Everyone eligible for a booster shot should get one right away – this includes our educators and school staff. Boosters provide an improved level of protection against infected with COVID-19. We know that vaccines remain effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. As we continue to work to stay ahead of the virus, the best thing you can do right now is to go get your booster shot today.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance recommending that every adult get a booster. Everyone ages 16 and older can now get a COVID-19 vaccine booster. You can get your booster:
- 6 months after your 2nd dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine; or
- 2 months after your single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
Additionally, we are collaborating with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) – two of the largest unions in the country – who will reach out to their 5 million collective members to encourage them to get the booster shots, including through phone calls, texts, emails and through a new social and advertising campaigns on the importance of boosters.
Boosters are free and readily available at over 80,000 locations coast to coast. You have 3 ways to find free vaccines near you:
- Go to vaccines.gov
- Text your ZIP code to 438829
- Call 1-800-232-0233
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For kids, getting kids vaccinated is their best way to stay safely in school and avoid quarantine. For schools, implementing test to stay means kids don’t need to miss days of school due to COVID. For educators and school staff, getting boosted protects you and your family, and helps keep our schools safely open. All of these actions protect in-person learning for all students.
The investments and initiatives of the Biden-Harris Administration have led to 99% of schools being open, and both test to stay, vaccination, and boosters make it easier to keep kids safely in school.
While Omicron is more transmissible and our medical experts anticipate it will lead to a rise in cases, unlike last winter this time we have the power to protect ourselves and to keep our schools and businesses open. The message is clear: There is action you can take to protect yourself and your family. Get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get boosted.