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Schools already testing students and staff for coronavirus say it’s crucial to in-person class: ‘It’s worth it’

Erin Richards, Ken Alltucker – USA TODAY |

As part of the push under President Joe Biden to reopen schools, the administration announced this week that it would make $10 billion available for K-12 schools to expand coronavirus screening of staff and students. Schools that already set up testing regimes adopted different practices. Medical technology companies have raced to meet their needs with testing products and services. Health experts are split on what tests are best. And some staff and students’ families have balked at testing.

Multiple companies make coronavirus tests, but the Food and Drug Administration has authorized only a handful of rapid tests that can be used without a doctor’s prescription or medical oversight. Companies that make the least expensive versions have been unable to get FDA authorization. It all adds up to schools emerging as the latest battleground for determining the best and smartest approaches to track the virus that causes COVID-19.

“It still needs to be coordinated,” said Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “You don’t want to just throw tests out there.”

Rapid antigen tests “are probably not the best way if you’re going to test somebody, primarily because you’re looking at that one point in time,” said Tan, an Infectious Diseases Society of America board member. “It doesn’t tell you that the person may be incubating disease or whether the person is truly infected.”

On Friday, the CDC updated its school reopening guidance to lower physical distancing recommendations to 3 feet in classrooms. The changes also said weekly screenings of asymptomatic teachers and students is “particularly valuable” in communities where COVID-19 spread is moderate to high. Students in high-risk sports in places with substantial to high transmission should be screened twice a week, the guidance says.

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