Pennsylvania announces weekly COVID-19 testing in schools as Fall nears
The statewide program is optional and requires parental consent, but officials are urging participation.
All school districts in the state of Pennsylvania are now able to offer free weekly COVID-19 testing for its students and staff through K-12 grade.
The school testing sites will be federally-funded using COVID-19 relief, and parents will have the option to opt in or out of consent for their children to receive nasal swab testing.
The swab is self-administered and results will be received in 24 to 48 hours.
The new program, reported by AP News, will also be available for schools in higher learning such as colleges and universities, besides Philadelphia, which already has its own COVID testing methods for students.
State officials are hoping that this method will detect COVID-19 early and therefore, eliminate the chances of someone else contracting the virus.
Pennsylvania Education Secretary Noe Ortega hopes that more students will take part in the voluntary testing.
"I encourage all our schools to coordinate COVID-19 vaccination clinics for their communities as soon as possible. I encourage all K-12 schools to participate in testing programs as well," Ortega said at a press conference.
He said he also believes that weekly testing could help schools stay open.
“Students and teachers across Pennsylvania are looking forward to returning to their classrooms for the new school year – let’s do everything we can to make sure they are safe while teaching, learning, and growing together,” said Ortega.
"Early detection like this is exactly what we need to keep students in classrooms, and COVID out," said Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam.
Beam was nominated by Gov. Tom Wolfe in Jan. 2021, when Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine was nominated by the Biden Administration to serve as Assistant Secretary of Health in the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
She said she also believes that students should take part in the testing to get back to a healthier and safer learning environment.
“This testing initiative in conjunction with vaccination and masking, is the best thing schools can do to keep Friday night lights shining brightly this year,” said Beam. “It's clear that everyone wants to keep kids in the classroom.”
Beam is also ordering that vaccine programs set up clinics in participating schools as soon as they can.
The idea behind the new testing program is due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, especially among children and teenagers.
According to data provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association first reported by Action News, child COVID-19 cases have steadily increased again in recent weeks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children's Hospital Association (CHA) found that nearly 94,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported last week, a continued "substantial" increase.
While children over the age of 12 are allowed to get the vaccine, younger children may have to require extra protection to stay safe and healthy.
That is why state officials developed the program, along with Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based organization that has also worked with other states such as Maine, Arizona, and Massachusetts.
Pennsylvania was rewarded $87 million from Ginkgo to afford weekly COVID testing. Other funds are also coming from a percentage of the state’s coronavirus relief bill.