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The Missing Piece -- SARS-CoV-2 Testing and School Reopening

Journal Article
New England Journal of Medicine logo

On August 17, 2020, the Los Angeles Unified School District launched a program to test more than 700,000 students and staff for SARS-CoV-2. The district is paying a private contractor to provide next-day, early-morning results for as many as 40,000 tests daily. As of October 4, a total of 34,833 people had been tested at 42 sites. The program is notable not only because it’s ambitious, but also because it’s unusual: testing is conspicuously absent from school reopening plans in many other districts. Typically, exhaustive attention has instead focused on physical distancing, face coverings, hygiene, staggering of schedules, and cohorting (dividing students into small, fixed groups). Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and state officials have urged schools to prepare for Covid-19 cases, they have offered strikingly little substantive guidance on testing. Immediate attention to improving testing access and response planning is essential to the successful reopening of schools.

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