Education

NYC plans to end school-based COVID testing program, sources say

New York City plans to end its program of conducting weekly coronavirus tests on a random sample of students, and the chalkbeat has decided to remove one of its last remaining campus COVID safety measures. I learned.

A source familiar with the program said the decision to discontinue on-site PCR testing after summer school was communicated internally last month.

“The city decided it was no longer necessary,” said the source, who said no specific justification was provided.

A city hall spokesperson denied the city’s plans for the fall had been finalized, but did not directly object to the city’s plans to stop PCR testing in schools.

Mayoral spokesperson Amaris Cockfield said, “To be clear, no final decisions have been made regarding testing at schools next year.” We are finalizing our plans to keep our schools safe and open again this year and will communicate our plans to families once the actual decisions are made.”

Fall 2020 release When the city first reopens school buildings, the program aims to detect large outbreaks in schools and provide big picture data on whether mitigation measures such as masks and social distancing are keeping the virus in check. It was intended.

However, the course of the pandemic and the city’s response to it have changed significantly since the testing program was first devised. Some public health experts I have previously questioned whether a testing program is worth the expense Over $30 million monthly. (The program was originally supported by a $251 million federal grant, but city officials have not disclosed the program’s total cost.)

City officials have yet to share what COVID safety measures will be in place next year or what the city’s testing strategy will be. Schools initially sent students and staff quick kits to their homes when exposed to a Sent everyone home as a precautionThe goal was to identify cases where someone wasn’t feeling well, fix the problem, and get them back in the building faster.

Dr. Jay Varma, former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s chief health adviser and designer of the in-school testing program, said it may be appropriate to end the testing program as long as the city offers rapid testing. I was.Governor Kathy Hochul said the state Plans to make millions of rapid tests available to school this fall.

“I don’t think the city needs to continue regular PCR screening if every child gets them every week,” Varma wrote in a message to Chalkbeat.

The city’s teachers’ union has been a major proponent of expanding the in-school PCR program. This will allow up to 10% of staff to be tested weekly by the end of last school year. test them. In-school PCR testing will no longer be available to staff, according to a source familiar with the city’s decision.

Alison Gender, a spokesperson for the National Teachers Federation, said the change would require negotiation with the union.

“The Department of Education cannot unilaterally change COVID protocols without engaging UFT and other unions representing school employees,” she wrote. not.”

Mayor Eric Adams, who has pushed for the city to return to pre-pandemic life, scaled back other school safety measures last year, including universal masking and social distancing rules. Some experts also argued that the testing program may not have delivered many tangible benefits.

The city has not articulated how it uses test data to drive big-picture policy decisions, such as whether to introduce universal masking. We stopped closing classrooms and school buildings when the outbreak occurred, but students and staff were required to stay home even if they tested positive.

There were also questions about data quality. The goal of this program was to sample a random group of students, but it didn’t. The program pulled students out of class, sometimes for up to 30 minutes.By the end of last school year, the city had We aim to test at least 10% of our students every week.

Still other experts have previously said the program could provide reassurance to parents, educators and students that the virus is not spreading in school buildings. Lab tests are usually more accurate than rapid tests, but they take longer to return, making them less useful as a strategy for quickly isolating students.

Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York covering public schools in New York City. Please contact Alex at azimmerman@chalkbeat.org.



NYC plans to end school-based COVID testing program, sources say

Source link NYC plans to end school-based COVID testing program, sources say

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