WebMD News Brief

L.A. Schools Launch COVID-19 Testing, Tracing Plan

boy getting on school bus

August 19, 2020 -- The Los Angeles Unified School District -- one of the largest school systems in the country -- has announced an ambitious coronavirus testing and tracing plan for all staff members, students, and their families.

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a news release. “This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area. This program will also provide significant education benefits for students by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there.”

The L.A. schools start the school year this week with virtual learning because of the high number of coronavirus cases in the city. Testing nearly 500,000 students and 75,000 staff members would be a step toward returning to on-campus education, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The program will cost about $300 per student over a year, which would amount to about $150 million, the Times said. Beutner did not say where the money was coming from or when it would begin.

The district’s release said the first people to be tested would be teachers and staff members working from schools and their children enrolled in day care provided by the district. Eventually all staff and students will be tested, the school district said, followed by periodic testing of staff and students.

“The launch of this program now allows a system to be built and tested, as well as provides a base of knowledge to help prepare for an eventual return to school campuses,” the district said.

The school district news release said the testing and tracing program would be a collaboration involving scientists from UCLA, Stanford University, and Johns Hopkins University as well as Microsoft and healthcare companies Anthem Blue Cross and Health Net.

The district’s plan appears to run contrary to CDC guidelines, which says it “does not currently recommend universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12) be conducted by schools.”

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 19, 2020

Sources

LAUSD. Los Angeles Unified Launches COVID-19 Testing and Tracing Program At Schools to Include Research on Impact and Effect of Reopening

Los Angeles Times. “L.A. schools announce massive COVID-19 testing, tracing initiative for all students and staff”

CDC. "Screening K-12 Students for Symptoms of COVID-19: Limitations and Considerations"

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