Contact: Frank Ameduri, 360-522-3750
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH), in conjunction with Health Commons Project, is making it easier for schools across the state to do both diagnostic testing and screening testing for COVID-19.
New funding will allow districts and schools the option to add screening tests to their COVID-19 testing strategy if they choose. Until now, most districts and schools opted to focus on just diagnostic testing for students and staff with symptoms or exposures to people suspected of having COVID-19. Adding an option for screening tests can improve a school’s ability to further prevent disease spread where in-person learning is happening. This kind of testing can help schools head off potential outbreaks before they occur, and it can be a useful tool for students participating in athletics or other extracurricular programs.
To support school districts in building out on-site testing, the newly expanded “Learn to Return” playbook offers a range of COVID-19 testing options districts can choose from. When a school district enrolls in the Learn to Return program, they are assigned a testing strategist who works with the district to design a tailored COVID-19 testing program that fits its unique needs. The program is voluntary, flexible and free. As always, decisions about when and how to expand in-person learning are up to each school district, working with their local health jurisdictions.
“Expanding COVID testing in schools with the Learn to Return program will help schools expand in-person learning in the Fall,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “The pandemic is not over, but this is another tool, along with more vaccinations, that will help to keep students and educators healthy and keep schools open.”
“Giving schools this option for screening testing at no cost is a huge win,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “We all want to get as many students back into classrooms as soon as possible, and this successful testing program will increase our ability to confidently and effectively do that.”
The statewide schools testing program started as a pilot with 13 school districts. The program has expanded to over 100 school districts serving more than 550,000 students across the state.
A federal grant from the CDC and administered by DOH will cover a range of costs related to COVID-19 screening for districts that choose to participate in the expansion.