Biden to push schools to set up routine COVID testing for kids, staff

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(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration is launching a new effort with The Rockefeller Foundation to encourage schools to set up surveillance COVID testing for students and staff, ABC News has learned.

The effort, which will be led by the Education Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes seven months after President Joe Biden pledged $10 billion for testing by schools.

The idea is that school districts around the country, particularly elementary schools with large populations of unvaccinated children, would routinely test kids, teachers and other staff for COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the virus.

But some states have rejected their share of the $10 billion in federal funds for COVID-19 testing in schools while others have been painfully slow in actually implementing virus mitigation plans.

A survey of the nation’s 100 largest school districts from the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that less than 15% of those schools are utilizing federal funding dollars to establish COVID-19 in-school screening programs.

Meanwhile, pediatric COVID cases increased this summer with many school districts reporting mass quarantines at the beginning of the school year.

According to details obtained by ABC News, the Rockefeller Foundation had already been helping schools to set up pilot programs to screen kids and staff for asymptomatic cases. The new effort will provide schools with testing providers and other resources to make it easier to launch surveillance screening.

Also, starting Nov. 2 through December, the Biden administration and The Rockefeller Foundation will host twice-weekly sessions with experts to walk school districts through how to set up a testing program.

Last month, an official from the foundation told ABC that many school districts haven’t known where to go to get help.

“In many states, there are a number of different testing vendors they [schools] can choose from,” said Leah Perkinson, manager of the pandemics division at the Rockefeller Foundation, in a September interview. “One of the most unfortunate parts about all of this is that there is a ton of guidance out there, but there’s just not a lot of awareness about what the choices are.”

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