RALEIGH, N.C. — After a successful pilot program in more than a dozen North Carolina school districts, COVID-19 rapid testing in schools is expanding.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that this comes as part of an effort to protect students, teachers and staff from the virus.
NCDHHS piloted this plan with 17 public school districts and 11 charter schools from December 2020 through February 2021.
“This has been a huge benefit for our working parents and staff,” said April Hardy, school nurse for Lenoir County Public Schools and liaison for the Lenoir County health department. “Our staff has been able to rapidly identify positive cases and conduct contact tracing in a timely manner; thus, keeping our school safe. In addition, staff and students identified as close contacts have been able to return back to school sooner with such easily accessible tests.”
Tests will be available at no coast at all Local Education Agencies and charter schools for students and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms.
The CDC recommends diagnostic and screening tests as an additional prevention measure on top of other essential strategies like wearing a mask and physical distancing.
“Layering mitigation efforts is essential to reduce the spread of the virus as we re-open our schools,” said State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson. “We are excited to be expanding beyond pilot schools to offer this additional layer of mitigation to interested LEAs and charter schools.”
While testing is not required for schools to officer in-person instruction, schools may choose to request tests.
Schools may test anyone, including students, their families and school staff, who are symptomatic or had known exposure to a confirmed positive case.
Schools may also perform weekly screening of all adults, including teachers and staff.
All LEAs and charter schools interested in providing testing must meet certain requirements, including obtaining parental/guardian consent prior to testing, maintaining adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, having trained personnel to administer tests or partnering with a local health provider, and reporting test results to public health.
For more information on the above requirements, please see StrongSchool NC’s K-12 COVID-19 Antigen Testing Interim Guidance.