LA Unified orders COVID-19 tests before class resumes

Faced with skyrocketing infection rates, Los Angeles school officials ordered students and staff to undergo mandatory coronavirus testing before returning to campus after winter break on the 10th. January.

The tests will be an emergency and rapid execution strategy to identify cases before students and staff from the country’s second-largest school district converge inside classrooms. The announcement came hours after a special school board meeting hastily called Monday morning.

District test sites will be open on Saturday, although test results can also be obtained elsewhere.

Employees who are not already on duty this week will receive two hours of pay to take the tests this week. If they wait until Monday – when they’ll be back after winter break – they’ll be given all the time off they need to be tested, but no extra pay. School employees return to work on January 10. The students return on January 11.

“Keeping our schools safe is a top priority for Los Angeles Unified,” said the Acting Superintendent. Megan Reilly said in a letter sent to families and staff. “We all have a role to play in keeping our schools safe. Thanks for doing your part. Your comments and partnership are appreciated.

The district plan gained the immediate support of the union which represents directors and other administrators.

“It’s science-based and it will help students get back to school,” said Nery X. Paiz, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles.

The baseline testing would complement ongoing efforts to test all students and staff every week – roughly 500,000 tests per week. The district accepts a variety of testing options. Families can provide a PCR test or an antigen test – either from a district testing site or elsewhere. They can also use the results of home tests. But officials are asking families to upload the results to the district’s Daily Pass system by Sunday, January 9.

The move comes as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spurring new infections at a record rate in Los Angeles County, estimated at more than at any time since the early months of the pandemic, data shows. Each infected person in LA County transmits the virus, on average, to two other people, according to estimates from California COVID-19 computer models released Monday morning.

Hospitalizations and deaths have not followed this increase as most of the county’s residents are vaccinated, according to local health officials, although serious complications can occur days or weeks after infection.

School districts across the county must follow new and tougher safety rules. All school employees in the county’s 80 districts are required to use medical-grade protective masks inside campus in accordance with new county guidelines released on Friday. Schools, including private schools, and school systems have two weeks to comply after reopening.

In a morning online meeting with county public health director Barbara Ferrer, senior school officials expressed concern over having enough healthy staff to stay open, to have enough quick-result coronavirus tests and confusion over the rapidly evolving rules on who should isolate and quarantine and for how long.

Ferrer also told school leaders to prepare for the worst outbreak yet, with perhaps 10% of students and staff testing positive early in school, according to those familiar with the contents of the briefing.

Other school systems are also discussing what to do when schools reopen amid the wave.

The Burbank Unified School Board held an emergency meeting on Sunday over a possible delay in reopening the district scheduled for Jan. 3. After which the superintendent. Matt Hill called a “solid discussion,” the board decided to reopen as scheduled.

At the same time, officials decided to consider options such as mandatory coronavirus testing for students and staff and requiring a vaccine booster for all employees by April 1. Officials also plan to issue an update to the community on Friday with test results, providing parents and employees with contact details of those with questions and concerns, meeting with worker groups and updating policies. masking.

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