State could soon provide COVID-19 tests to schools
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- School districts could soon get some help from the state to test students and teachers for COVID-19.
This week, districts were sent a survey that states the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) “has received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a program to support school-based COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff and students.”
The concept comes as health professionals warn new variants of the virus are becoming more common in kids and teens.
DHS did not respond to questions if and when the testing program would be offered or how it would operate.
Right now, school districts on their own can decide if they want to pay for COVID-19 testing. Milwaukee Public Schools plans to start testing 10% of the student body, with consent forms, at random every other week to track possible transmission.
If the state implemented a school testing program it could “detect new cases to prevent outbreaks, reduce the risk of further transmission, and protect the school community from COVID-19,” according to the survey.
It asks whether districts would be open to the state paying for a program and whether or not testing is already an option.
Dr. Greg Demuri, an infectious disease specialist at UW Health, said such a program comes at the right time as some districts are not requiring face masks since the State Supreme Court struck down the mask mandate.
“This is a disaster waiting to happen and this young population is very vulnerable to this variant in particular,” said Demuri.
Schools tend to be safe places where transmission is less likely, said Demuri, but the new variant changes that.
“I think the biggest concern is that we will see outbreaks in schools, and we have had some in Wisconsin,” Demuri said.
Some school officials believe COVID-19 tests for students and staff could make a difference, but having enough resources to pull it off is a big factor.
“It could be helpful, especially to get us through the rest of the spring and the new variants and how it is impacting kids,” said Kim Kaukl, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.
“But who’s going to do the testing, who will that fall upon and if it falls on the school, do we have the personnel, will they be trained well enough?”
Many questions remain up in the air and the state has yet to implement such a program, but soon districts who want testing might be able to offer it.