RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As more students head back to classrooms this fall, some schools will have an additional tool to slow the spread of COVID-19: testing.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is giving public, private, and charter schools the option to participate in a testing program.
Throughout most of the pandemic, doctors have encouraged people to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling or medical procedures, as well as any time anyone may have been exposed.
Dr. Michael Steiner, pediatrician in chief at UNC Children’s Hospital, said testing can also help stop the virusfrom spreading in schools.
With a virus that doesn’t always cause symptoms, he said it’s important to test people who aren’t sick, not just ones who are.
“The goal of a testing program is not so much to identify children who already have a fever or other symptoms, it’s really to identify those asymptomatic children and identify that they have COVID and keep them home away from other kids,” he explained.
He said there has already been success with testing programs at the college level.
“That’s helped colleges and universities safely bring kids back to school. I think the same ideas would apply to children in school settings,” Steiner said.
A grant from the CDC will provide COVID-19 tests. The state said districts that sign up for the program will decide which schools to include. Parental consent will be needed for children to be tested.
“The ideal would be to be able to test across the whole school because any children who aren’t being tested do have that risk of carrying the virus without being symptomatic,” Steiner said. “But even if you can test part of the population, you’ll still be able to cut down on the risk of passing the virus.”
According to NCDHHS, public and charter schools that choose to participate will have the option of getting additional funds to hire school health workers.