Federal Government to Send Free COVID Tests to Schools

Federal health officials announced Wednesday they will send COVID-19 tests to schools this winter.
Federal Government to Send Free COVID Tests to Schools
A woman shows the free COVID test kits he has received outside Petworth Library in the District of Columbia, on Dec. 23, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

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 Biden-Harris Administration remains a committed partner with schools in keeping our students and teachers safe and healthy,” said the Department of Education’s secretary for policy development, Roberto Rodriguez. “These self-tests are easy to use and can play an important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. We encourage schools to make use of these free resources to safeguard students, parents, and staff throughout the 2023–24 school year.”

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.”

HHS officials did not specify a limit on how many COVID-19 tests a school can order.  “I could imagine a situation where perhaps a fifth grade classroom, it has a COVID-positive student and then they send everyone home with a COVID test in the backpack from that fifth grade class,” Ms. O'Connell told Axios.

Hospitalizations Low

Data 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.
But the agency’s historical trends tracker shows that despite the recent rises, the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases is still far lower than previous “surges” of the virus.
The CDC also issued an estimate that a new COVID-19 subvariant, BA.2.86, has increased threefold across the United States in recent weeks. That variant now makes up around 9 percent of COVID-19 cases, although health officials have said it likely accounts for 5 percent to 15 percent of circulating variants.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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