Dec 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin unveils "test to stay" strategy to keep kids in school

Co-teachers at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 Marisa Wiezel (who is related to the photographer) and Caitlin Kenny give a lesson to their masked students.

Co-teachers at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 Marisa Wiezel and Caitlin Kenny give a lesson on September 27 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

To prepare for an expected surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Omicron variant, the Biden administration on Friday unveiled a "test to stay" strategy that aims to keep students in school.

Driving the news: The surging number of cases is leading many school districts to return to remote learning, raising concerns about a broader interruption in student learning.

  • A Biden administration official told Axios this week that "a large wave" of cases is coming, pointing to data from South Africa and Europe that indicate the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly and vaccines offer less protection against it compared to other variants.

Details: Under the strategy, students who are identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive individual should remain in school if they test negative at least twice during the week after exposure.

  • This does away with the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of requiring quarantine for students who are identified as close contacts, according to NBC, which first reported the strategy change.
  • The CDC on Friday also released two reports highlighting school districts that have successfully implemented the "test to stay" policy.
  • CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stressed that students within those districts regularly wore masks and exposure events were closely monitored.

The big picture: The strategy change comes as the number of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths climb across the country.

  • Just 18% of children ages 5 to 11 have received at least one shot the COVID-19 vaccine and 61% of individuals 12 to 17 have received at least one dose, the American Academy of Pediatrics said last week.
  • The Omicron variant, which is likely to become the dominant strain in the U.S. soon, appears to be more contagious than Delta, Axios' Sam Baker and Kavya Beheraj report.

Go deeper: COVID cases rising with Christmas — and Omicron — around the corner

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