The Los Angeles Unified School District will launch an aggressive coronavirus testing and contact tracing program for all students, staff and their families as part of a broad plan to safely reopen campuses.
No date has been set for reopening schools in the nation’s second-largest district. The academic year formally begins this week with distance learning.
The spread of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles area still exceeds state guidelines governing the possible return of students to campuses.
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The testing and tracing plan announced Sunday will provide data that can be used as a guide for eventually renewing school operations, Superintendent Austin Beutner wrote in an opinion article for the Los Angeles Times.
Tests will first be given to staff currently working at schools as well as to any of their children participating in child care provided for Los Angeles Unified employees.
“Tests will then be provided for all staff and students over a period of weeks to establish a baseline. On an ongoing basis, sample testing based on epidemiological models will be done for each cohort of staff and students,” Beutner wrote.
Testing will also be provided to family members of students and staff who test positive for the coronavirus and family members who show symptoms. In the event of a positive test, contact can be made with others in the school community to quickly isolate the virus, Beutner wrote.
The testing program will be a partnership that includes the University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft, Anthem Blue Cross and HealthNet, among others. It will cost roughly $300 per student over a year — about $150 million total.
Clinical Reference Laboratory will provide the district with testing specimen collection kits and process the tests in CRL’s lab in Kansas. "CRL received FDA Emergency Use Authorization for CRL Rapid Response™, a saliva-based COVID-19 RT-PCR test that can be self-collected at home, work, school or any other setting," according to the district's website.
The superintendent did not immediately identify the source of the funding, but the district has received hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars for its coronavirus response efforts.