Rapid testing saves school days, keeps kids healthy
Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart calls on Governor Kathy Hochul to immediately revise New York’s Covid-19 school guidelines to allow a safety protocol called “test to stay.”
Right now, New York requires a negative PCR test to return to class after a child is exposed to Covid-19 or has symptoms. Healthy students miss school while waiting for PCR tests to come back, which can take a day or more.
“I’ve heard from so many parents who have to keep their kids out of school for several days while waiting for PCR test results to come back. There is a better way, and it’s called ‘test to stay,’” said Barnhart.
“Test to Stay” allows students to remain in school if they take a daily rapid test for a certain period of time, as long as it is negative. Utah and Massachusetts are using “test to stay,” along with other districts around the country. In Massachusetts, “test to stay” has already saved thousands of school days for students who tested negative. A UK study found similar positivity rates for students tested daily in school and those quarantined at home.
PCR tests are considered the “gold standard” in Covid testing. But PCR tests can find traces of the virus long after someone has recovered. Rapid tests, meanwhile, are more than 90 percent accurate at detecting when someone is infectious and likely to transmit the virus. New York is basing its PCR-test requirement on guidance from the CDC, which is still studying ‘test to stay.”
In Europe, rapid tests are free or cost as little as $1. Meantime, the tests can be $25 for a box of two at American drug stores — if you can find them in stock. The rapid tests are such important public health tools, the Biden administration has committed to ramping up production. Ideally, one day every family will have a supply of rapid tests at home.
“Rapid tests got a bad rap early in the pandemic, but they are extremely accurate at telling us when a child is contagious,” said Barnhart. “Schools should use limited supplies of rapid tests for this purpose. ‘Test to stay’ controls outbreaks and stops transmission, while allowing healthy kids to stay in class.”
Here are some articles and op-eds on Test to Stay:
An Epidemiologist Says At-Home Testing Is Key To Stopping COVID (NPR)
A simple solution to endless school quarantines (Vox)
A New Covid Testing Model Aims to Spare Students From Quarantine (NYT)
More schools using “test-to-stay” strategy to minimize quarantines (Axios)