Gov. Jared Polis promised Wednesday to supply 1 million at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to Colorado school staff, students and families monthly during the spring semester.
The tests, provided through a partnership with BinaxNOW, will help public and private schools quickly identify positive cases among symptomatic individuals as well as provide regular surveillance testing to identify individuals who may be asymptomatic, Polis said.
Anyone who has been exposed to a test-positive person may also procure a test. Negative test results may allow students and staff to be released from quarantine early depending on the timing of those results, according to updated guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Colorado is one of three states nationwide to be a part of this program, which will make tests available through June. School districts must order the tests, but they can be sent to individuals’ homes if necessary, Polis added.
“Testing is a key part of suppressing the virus, getting our kids back into the classroom,” Polis said during Wednesday’s announcement. “The White House had it, the Broncos had it, the Rockies have it. Well, guess what? Now our schools will have that same level of intense testing that really only existed in the rarified strata of sports teams and the White House.”
In addition to the rapid tests, Polis promised to continue supplying KN95 and surgical masks to educators in school districts that opt-in to receive them. Between August and December, the state distributed more than 2.4 million masks to schools, he said.
On Tuesday, public health officials clarified that teachers, bus drivers and other school staff would likely start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in March. School-based health care staff are eligible to be vaccinated now, and nurses in Cherry Creek School District began that process on New Year’s Day.
The initiatives announced Wednesday are in an effort to bolster what state and school leaders call layered protections intended to keep schools safe spaces and enable students to return to class in-person. Other measures include cohorting students, requiring masks and social distancing on campus, and improving ventilation.
“With these critical tools we hope we can finish out the school year on a safer note,” Polis said.
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