NEW JERSEY – The New Jersey Department of Education does not track which or how many school districts in the state have started using the “test to stay,” the recently approved protocol that allows students exposed to the coronavirus to stay in class, as long as they test negative on a rapid test given to them at the start of each school day.
However, several school districts across the state are already using the system or have plans to start very soon.
The Lakewood School District was one of the first to start using the test to stay; they began doing so on January 7. Rumson-Fair Haven schools will begin implementing the test to stay Feb. 1. Hoboken, Long Valley and Rockaway school districts are considering it.
But overall, adoption of “testing to stay” has been slow — largely because New Jersey school districts don’t have enough rapid antigen tests. In fact, Governor Murphy said this week that due to a nationwide shortage of rapid tests, no school district in the state is required to take a “test to stay.”
“There is absolutely a shortage of rapid tests because of the paranoia of people in our society testing over and over again,” said State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who has campaigned aggressively all last fall for Murphy to approve “test to stay.” “We have people hysterically cleaning the shelves of tests just because they’re sniffling. And immunocompromised people – legitimately immunocompromised people – can’t find tests.”
President Joe Biden is trying to address this issue, as Biden promised on Wednesday this week his administration will provide 10 million free COVID-19 tests per month to US schools to maintain in-person classes. These free rapid COVID tests should start arriving before the end of January.
In South Jersey, the school districts of Millville and Washington Township are beginning school testing soon, according to Rick Pescatore, who owns a company that schools, businesses and prisons hire to do contact tracing, and now COVID testing at school.
Pescatore wouldn’t say how much the districts were paying his company, but he said his company was driven to do the testing because:
“The school nurses are overwhelmed. And now they have to be epidemiologists on the battlefield. New Jersey has been way behind the eight ball on the test to stay. They are reluctant to do anything before the CDC. In California, many schools have done testing to stay a while now. This helps keep kids in school.
How “test to stay” works
Currently, the stay test ensures that instead of staying home for 14 days if exposed to someone who is COVID-positive, the student reports directly to the school nurse’s office. every morning, instead of going to class. There they are given a rapid antigen test, which gives results in 15 minutes. The student is allowed to go to class if he is negative.
The residence test applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated students.
The student should be tested daily for seven to fourteen days after exposure. Lakewood said on their neighborhood website they test the student every other day.
This only applies if a student has no symptoms. If a student develops symptoms, they must quarantine at home for five days. In addition, students participating in the test to stay must keep a distance of six feet from others and must keep their masks on even when outside, a time when most students can remove them.
It depends these guidelines from the Ministry of Education which explain test to stay.
Those who support COVID testing in schools say it saves students from having to stay home for two weeks for virtual learning – something that happened all fall and forced one parent to absent from work or working from home during these fourteen days.
“Students exposed to COVID faced a quarantine period of up to 14 days. They cannot go to school or participate in sports or other activities,” O’Scanlon said. . “Quarantining dozens of students and keeping them out of the classroom has interfered with students and schools. The test to stay just makes sense. Students need it, schools need it, and parents need it.”
New York City and New Jersey began allowing the “stay test” in schools after the Centers for Disease Control said it approved it in mid-December.
The state Department of Health said it supports testing in schools because it keeps students in school.
“We know that students benefit from in-person learning, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, “and the safe continuation of in-person instruction remains a priority.
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