California recommends regular COVID-19 testing for school staff

Posted at 3:24 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-27 19:11:50-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The County of San Diego is providing free COVID-19 testing to all school employees returning to in-person learning, a recommendation by the California Department of Public Health.

There are more than 80,000 school employees across the county.

“This is everybody from bus drivers, to food service workers, to teachers, to administrators,” said Music Watson, the Chief of Staff for the San Diego County Office of Education, or SDCOE.

While most schools are sticking with distance learning, for now, some are preparing to return to in-person learning starting in September.

The school employees that do return will be tested for COVID-19 often.

“The recommendation is that in any given two month period, you’ve tested 100% of school employees, with about half being tested in any given month,” said Watson. “People who are doing distance learning and teaching in a distance format and not coming into contact with students and school staff, they’re not going to have to be tested.”

The county is partnering with SDCOE to develop more testing sites specifically for school employees by late September.

Testing is currently available at the more than 20 county coordinated sites at no cost to school staff.

If positive tests are discovered, classrooms, schools, and districts may need to shut down for two weeks.

“If 5% of a classroom tests positive, that classroom would close, and they would self-isolate. If 5% of a school tests positive, the school would close for two weeks, and if 25% of district tests positive, the entire district would close for that two week self-isolation period,” said Watson. “In a classroom, 5% is basically one student or teacher, that’s why it’s so important to have a testing protocol in place.”

If a classroom or school does have to shut down, students will continue learning for the two weeks.

“That doesn’t mean all of a sudden it’s 14-days of no learning, it means transitioning to virtual which might be online or packet work depending on the particulars of that situation,” said Watson.

It’s not currently recommended that asymptomatic children get tested for COVID-19, but if a parent or guardian wants their child tested, they should discuss it with their pediatrician.