The Biden administration said Wednesday it will provide 10 million more COVID-19 tests to U.S. schools each month as it tries to keep classrooms open and mollify teachers’ unions that have demanded safety upgrades amid the omicron wave.
The allotment will consist of 5 million rapid tests to help kids “test to stay” if they are exposed to the virus. The administration will also provide 5 million PCR tests per month.
A White House fact sheet said President Biden will surge testing sites, including near schools, to communities that need them. It also highlighted American Rescue funding that allows schools to set up arrangements with local testing centers.
The administration will also provide more guidance on test-to-stay programs that let students stay in class after exposure, so long as they test twice and wear a mask during the following week.
“Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken every step available to keep schools safely open for full-time, in-person instruction,” the White House said. “These efforts have resulted in 96% of schools open in-person in January 2022, up from 46% of schools in January 2021. Students have sacrificed so much over the course of the pandemic, and the president has been clear in his words and his actions that his administration will do all that it can to keep schools safely open for all students.”
The portion of schools that started the year in remote learning generated big headlines, however.
In Chicago, students are returning to the classroom Wednesday after city leaders offered better safety measures to teachers who’d insisted on remote work, resulting in a standoff that canceled classes for five days.
During the standoff, Mr. Biden said schools in Chicago and elsewhere should be open but did not personally intervene.
Becky Pringle, president of the National Educators Association, praised new efforts to enhance testing in schools nationwide.
“We applaud the Biden Administration for heeding the call of educators across the nation to center our school communities in the pandemic response strategy and providing even more resources to keep our students, educators, and all their families safe,” she said. “NEA is already mobilizing its members and leaders to work with schools as well as state and local governments to take advantage of the new testing resources.”
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.