Test plan to stay could keep more kids in school after COVID-19

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  • Almost 2 years after the start of the COIVD-19 pandemic, the Biden administration has a new plan to try to curb outbreaks at school.
  • A “test-to-stay” program will allow children to stay in school even if they are exposed to the coronavirus.
  • Experts say the best way to protect children from COVID-19 is to immunize them if they are over 5 years old.

President Joe Biden announced his winter plan for COVID-19 on December 2. One strategy he highlighted was to use the ‘test to stay’ (TTS) for schools, instead of quarantining students’ close contact with COVID-19.

“The CDC is currently examining pioneering approaches such as … ‘test-to-stay’ policies, which would allow students to stay in the classroom and be tested frequently when a positive case in that class appears, and it was not. them, ”Biden said. .

“But rather than being sent home and quarantined, they could stay, because a test would be available,” he continued.

Let’s take a look at the details and how this program could help kids avoid missed school days while preventing the spread of disease.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TTS (also known as modified quarantine), involves regular testing and contact tracing to allow close contact of people who test positive for COVID-19 to remain in the classroom.

An important part of this strategy is that other prevention strategies, like universal masking, are maintained to reduce the spread of the disease.

“I think taking steps for children to learn in person and participate in extracurricular activities is an absolutely positive step,” Henry Bernstein, DO, MHCM, pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New Hyde Park, New York, told Healthline. York.

But he stressed that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to use “tested and true” mitigating factors that we know to work, “such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, adequate ventilation inside schools, [and] the use of masks where appropriate.

In March, Utah gave final approval to Senate Bill SB107, which allows those who test negative for COVID-19 with an antigen test during an outbreak to return to class, and those who test negative for COVID-19 with an antigen test during an outbreak. who test positive to stay home.

one may Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) of the CDC found the Utah program to have a positive result.

“These programs made it easier to complete about 95 percent of high school extracurricular competitions and saved about 109,752 student days of in-person instruction,” the report read.

Michael Grosso, MD, chief medical officer and director of pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Long Island, New York, called Utah’s published experience with TTS “very promising.”

“We know that antigen tests are very useful in detecting individuals who may be infectious,” he said. “Molecular tests, like PCR, can be more sensitive, but antigen-negative people are very unlikely to spread the virus, even if they are infected. ”

Other states, such as Massachusetts and New York, have also implemented TTS.

According to CDC, a PCR test tells you if you are currently infected and could pass the disease on to others, and “almost always” if you are infected with the virus.

However, it may take a few days for the results to be received as the test requires processing in a laboratory.

Antigen tests show results quickly, but are less sensitive than PCR, work best when a person has symptoms of COVID-19, and are done within the first 5-7 days of illness.

Bernstein said one way to counteract the reduced sensitivity is to increase the frequency of testing.

“Even with the lower sensitivity of the antigen detection test, if you are going to do it every day for example, it can overcome the lower sensitivity if you are going to check it every day,” he explained.

According to Grosso, every conceivable strategy to control the spread of the coronavirus has advantages and disadvantages.

“The ideal approach would protect all children from infection while eliminating all interruptions to in-person learning,” he said.

He noted that experts have for some time been recommending approaches that come closest to achieving both goals: social distancing, masks, hand hygiene and vaccination.

Bernstein stressed that vaccination is still the most effective strategy to keep students and staff safe in schools.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for the unvaccinated to be vaccinated,” he said.

He added that mitigating factors (like mask wearing and social distancing) combined with different strategies, such as testing to stay, “can really be of benefit to students and families.”

Regarding Omicron, the most recent variant of concern to be identified, he said there was not enough information yet.

“But honestly at this point Delta is still the predominant strain,” he added. “And so we’ll do that and once new data comes in with Omicron, we’ll decide what adjustments, if any, are appropriate. ”

Part of Biden’s strategy against the pandemic this winter is to “test to stay,” which involves testing rather than quarantining students who are close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.

Experts say the rapid antigen tests used for this purpose are not as effective as PCR tests, but increasing the frequency of testing is one way around this problem.

They also say that even with “test to stay,” people should continue to use proven disease prevention measures, like wearing masks, social distancing and immunizations.


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