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Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Students and staff in the Washington, D.C., public school system will need to test negative for COVID-19 to return to the classrooms from winter break next Wednesday.

Why it matters: The nation's capital has one of the highest rates of coronavirus spread, and the new measure announced Wednesday aims to keep classrooms open through a massive testing drive.

  • Students and staff will need to take a test next Tuesday and upload results by 4pm. Those who test negative will be allowed in classrooms the next day.
  • Families can pick up free self-test rapid tests at a DCPS campus Monday or at one of the several daily sites that have been distributing the self-test kits.
  • D.C. has handed out 108,000 rapid test kits to residents since beginning the distribution last Wednesday, according to new stats.

What they're saying: "For us, it's going to be the biggest data collection effort throughout COVID," Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday about the testing of schools.

  • Charter schools will also distribute self-test kits but are not all held to the same requirement for a negative test result. D.C. Public Schools and the charter sectors enroll nearly 90,000 students.

Officials have been reluctant to tie in-person school closings to a specific COVID-19 metric, such as the number of cases at a campus.

  • Instead, Bowser said school leaders will make a determination every school night by 8pm about remaining open for in-person instruction or going virtual-only the next day. Statuses will be posted online.
  • Teachers will be provided KN95 masks and students will continue to be offered surgical masks if they need one.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data suggests that people with the Omicron variant frequently stay infectious for longer than five days, raising concerns about the CDC's updated isolation guidelines.

Why it matters: Experts say the issue could be resolved by using rapid tests to determine whether it is safe to exit isolation, but the CDC has not recommended a negative test as a condition to end isolation.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker
Hope King, author of Closer
13 mins ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.