Federal health officials announced Wednesday they will send COVID-19 tests to schools this winter, allowing schools to place orders starting in early December.
The agency’s statement added that the COVID-19 tests will be available to both public and charter schools around the United States for free.
“School districts may distribute these tests for free to students, staff, parents, and school communities, with the expectation that millions of tests will be sent out in the coming months—allowing schools to stock nurses’ offices, distribute at events, send tests home with students or parents, and more,” it stated.
The announcement comes about a week after the Biden administration set up a COVID-19 testing website that will allow Americans to order them. The tests will be distributed via the U.S. government’s stockpile, officials have said.
Twelve manufacturers that employ hundreds of people in seven states from California to Maryland were awarded funding and will produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles for government use, in addition to producing enough tests to meet demand for tests ordered online, the department said.
The effort is meant to guard against supply chain issues that sparked some shortages of at-home COVID-19 tests made overseas during past surges in COVID-19 cases.
Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said that though some portions of the public may be tired of the pandemic and its implications, at-home-testing remains a key way to slow the spread of new cases.
“Whether or not people are done with it, we know the virus is there, we know that it’s circulating. We know, if past is prologue, it’ll circulate to a higher degree and spread, and cases will go up in the fall and winter seasons,” Ms. O’Connell said. “Anticipating that that would be true again, or something similar, we want to make sure the American people have these tools.”
Hospitalizations LowData released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that hospitalizations for COVID-19 appear to remain low for the week ending Nov. 18. For that week, hospitalizations are up 9.7 percent, emergency room visits are up 1.8 percent, and cases are up 1.7 percent.
Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Health said the BA.2.86 variant was detected in wastewater across the state. “While we have yet to find it in a specimen from a local resident, it is almost certainly circulating here,” the agency said in August.