The federal government will distribute free COVID-19 tests to schools across the U.S., according to an announcement posted on the U.S. Department of Education (ED) website this week.
The ED has partnered with the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), a division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to distribute both over-the-counter (OTC) and rapid antigen COVID-19 tests.
The federal agency also sent letters to local education agencies, urging school districts to order the tests for use by students, parents, faculty and school communities, the announcement stated.
“We encourage school districts to make use of this free COVID-19 test offering, which schools may use, for example, to stock school nurses’ offices and main offices with tests; to send test kits home with students or parents; or to distribute by other means to put these valuable safeguards in the hands of students, parents, and staff who need them,” the ED said in a statement on its website.
Each school will have a point of contact to determine how many tests are needed and distribute them as needed, the statement also indicated.
ED’s Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Roberto Rodriguez said in the statement that “the Biden-Harris Administration remains a committed partner with schools in keeping our students and teachers safe and healthy.”
He went on, “These self-tests are easy to use and can play an important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. We encourage schools to make use of these free resources to safeguard students, parents, and staff throughout the 2023-24 school year.”
As the release stated, millions of tests will be sent out in the coming months.
HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell said the availability of the free tests will enable students and staff to self-test throughout the winter months.
“The partnership … leverages ASPR’s ongoing test distribution programs to reach school communities through ED’s close relationship to school districts — helping keep communities healthy,” she added in the announcement.
“Today’s announcement builds on previous Biden-Harris Administration efforts to increase COVID-19 testing in schools to keep students safe and schools open,” stated the ED’s announcement.
To date, the feds have distributed more than 1.6 billion COVID-19 tests to households, schools, long-term care facilities, community health centers and food banks.
Approximately four million tests are sent out each week.
The ASPR also announced that as of Nov. 20, households can order four free COVID tests through COVIDTests.gov.
The free COVID test program was originally launched in January 2022 but was suspended in September 2022 due to a lack of funding.
The program resumed in December 2022 with a surge of positive tests. Free tests were again available to order on Sept. 25 of this year.
Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, said he is in support of “information gathering” in medicine, but that “the question is what do you do with the results when you have them.”
“COVID rapid tests are especially helpful when you are symptomatic,” Siegel told Fox News Digital. “They are an important way to help distinguish COVID from RSV, which is currently surging, and influenza, which is starting to increase.”
If students test positive for COVID, Siegel said they should stay home from school to decrease the risk of infecting others.
“It can also be used to test others who have come in close contact with an infected person, so the rapid test remains useful,” he said.