US Schools to Receive Free COVID Tests Amid Winter Surge and New Variant Threat

The Education Department and Department of Health and Human Services will provide free rapid coronavirus tests to school districts across the country this winter to prepare for an expected increase in cases.

Starting in December, schools can ask for at-home antigen tests from the federal government, as announced by officials on Wednesday.

This announcement reveals the extent to which the coronavirus has impacted American schools and society since the peak of the pandemic. During that time, the federal government faced criticism for the limited availability of testing, and schools struggled to stay open without the necessary resources to fully protect students.

COVID cases on the rise again: The CDC estimates that cases of this COVID variant have tripled in just two weeks.

This initiative comes in the wake of a surge in cases this summer, which reignited debates over mask-wearing in classrooms and led to a variety of COVID-19 policies in different school districts. While there was a slight decrease in nationwide COVID-19-related hospitalizations after the surge, recent weeks have seen an increase, according to the latest federal data.

“Keeping students and teachers safe has been a priority of the Biden-Harris Administration since day one,” said Dawn O’Connell, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, in a statement.

Distracted students, stressed teachers: Here’s what an American school day looks like post-COVID

Schools can order coronavirus tests for students to use at home

In a letter sent to schools on Wednesday, Roberto J. Rodríguez, an assistant secretary in the Education Department, stated that districts will be encouraged to have tests available in nurses’ offices and send students home with tests.

“These self-tests are easy to use and can play an important role in containing the spread of the virus in schools and communities,” said Rodríguez in the letter.

On December 6, HHS will host a nationwide training for district officials on how to obtain the tests. According to the letter, the tests will be shipped to districts within two weeks of ordering.

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