On Monday, Oct. 4, the state of Vermont distributed resources and information to all Vermont public and independent schools to enable them to establish Covid-19 response testing. The state is bolstering existing testing tools with rapid testing to help keep more kids in school. These resources are provided free of charge to Vermont schools.
“We all know how important it is to keep kids in school – doing so is a public health imperative,” said Governor Phil Scott. “But what we have seen so far is that many students have had to quarantine after a possible exposure and then don’t ever become a case. This is valuable classroom time that is lost for the student, and challenging for parents and schools to manage. By adding these additional tools to the toolbox, we can minimize disruptions, more quickly identify cases, and above all, keep our kids in school, so they can get the education and opportunities for social interaction they deserve.”
Using a combination of PCR and rapid antigen tests, response testing allows schools to greatly reduce the time students might otherwise have to spend out of the classroom due to cases at their school. Students who are close contacts of a classmate or teacher who tests positive for Covid-19 will be able to test out of quarantine more easily and continue attending school while in quarantine as long as they have no symptoms.
“Response testing is a critical tool for Vermont schools as they work to keep students learning, and a key part of our efforts to support Vermont’s hard-working school staff and educators,” said Secretary of Education Dan French. “Right now, the most important thing we can for students’ long-term success is to keep them in the classroom as much as possible. Together with the current surveillance testing program, these new tools will help make sure that students are present, learning and engaged in the other essential pursuits that Vermont education provides.”
The Covid-19 response testing program consists of three complementary testing tools:
- Test to stay: allows unvaccinated students who are close contacts of a positive Covid-19 case to take a daily antigen test at the beginning of the school day, rather than remaining at home. Students who test negative go to class and in-school extracurricular activities as normal, as long as they have no symptoms. Students test until seven days have passed since they were last exposed to the case. This program is modeled after successful programs in Massachusetts and Utah and has been supported by Vermont’s pediatric community and infectious disease experts at the University of Vermont.
- PCR response testing: allows schools to conduct a wide range of PCR testing in response to cases in their learning community. This includes testing unvaccinated close contacts out of quarantine, testing vaccinated close contacts three to five days after exposure, and testing symptomatic students who test negative with an antigen test. Schools administer the testing on site.
- Take home PCR testing : allows schools to distribute kits to students, staff and family members who need a test. Families can follow simple instructions to register the kit using a smartphone or web browser, collect the sample, and either send back to the lab themselves with a pre-paid shipping label, or return to the school for shipping. These kits are intended for students quarantining at home, family members of Covid-19 positive students, or anyone in the learning community who needs a test.
Families will hear directly from their school about testing programs in their community. For more information visit: Healthvermont.gov/covid-19.