SAN DIEGO — A new study from San Diego State University aims to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in middle schools.
SDSU is partnering with the Sweetwater Union High School District for the study, and they will start with conducting trials at two middle schools, providing free at-home COVID-19 testing kits to one school and on-site testing to the other.
The study will then expand the preferred testing method to all eleven middle schools in the district. The study is funded through a two-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"A lot of middle schools students haven't gotten the vaccine even if they're eligible and so the idea was to figure out what we need to do to put layers of protection around middle schools to keep them safe," said Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, the Director of San Diego State University's Institute of Public Health.
Across the United States, schools are being forced to close as COVID-19 cases in students surge. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported 252,000 new COVID-19 infections in children this past week, the largest amount in a week since the pandemic began.
"We know this virus is spread through the air and we know that schools and municipalities and states can do things to protects kids and send them back to school and keep them in school," said McDaniels-Davidson.
McDaniels-Davidson also says the new study looks at whether families prefer at-home COVID-19 testing or on-site testing based on students' participation and weekly compliance with testing.
"We want the community to lead us to where we end up," said McDaniels-Davidson.
McDaniels-Davidson says the study continues the school's focus on underserved Latinx communities hard-hit by the pandemic.
In July, SDSU launched a separate program providing thousands of at-home testing kits for COVID-19 at Southwest Middle School "to determine whether self-testing of students’ high-risk family members can help keep schools safe."
"It was critical that we bring these kinds of tests for free to people who have the least access to them but who have the most exposure and need them the most arguably," she said.
ABC 10News also reached to Rady Children's Hospital regarding local COVID-19 cases in children in San Diego County.
A spokesperson with the hospital said they've seen a moderate decline in new infections over the past two weeks.
Hospitalizations are relatively stable, with an average of five or six patients on a given day. The majority of these patients are adolescents with known risk factors such as obesity or patients who are hospitalized for another illness or injury that happened to test positive for COVID-19.
They continue to closely monitor new cases and any trends.