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As schools across the country struggle to cope with a wave of cases of the omicron variant coronavirus, the White House announced on Wednesday it was increasing the supply of COVID-19 tests for schools to maintain facilities open for in-person learning.
President Biden and others in his administration insist that schools must remain open, even with the omicron wave making management more difficult than ever.
The administration will increase the number of COVID tests available to schools by 10 million per month – 5 million rapid tests and 5 million laboratory PCR tests.
Wednesday’s announcement adds to other testing resources and programs, and comes as the supply of COVID testing struggles to meet intense demand.
“Students have sacrificed so much during the pandemic, and the president has been clear in his words and actions that his administration will do everything possible to keep schools open and safe for all students,” the White House said in a press release. information sheet describing the test plan. “We know how to keep students and staff safe at school, including through vaccinations and reminders, implementing universal indoor masking, maintaining physical distance, improving ventilation and performing COVID-19 screening tests. “
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended “test-to-stay” practices for schools to reduce quarantines for those who have had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Coronavirus-related school closings and disruptions have been one of the most debated topics in the pandemic.
Republicans said Democrats haven’t done enough to keep students in class, arguing that learning loss should be avoided and that young and healthy people are unlikely to die or become seriously ill because of the virus.
Many teachers’ unions, however, have argued that classrooms remain unsafe, especially as the omicron variant rises, thinning staff and plunging the country into peak pandemic levels of COVID cases and hospitalizations. .
As recently as last week in Chicago, more than 300,000 public school students skipped class as the city’s teachers’ union and the city government clash over COVID security measures.
After tense negotiations, the two sides reached an agreement on Monday to allow a return to in-person learning, with additional safety precautions in place.
NPR’s Tamara Keith contributed reporting.