White House vows to provide 10 million Covid tests for schools each month – NBC News

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it would provide schools with 10 million Covid-19 tests every month as it urges districts to keep classrooms open amid a widespread shortage of testing kits.

The White House said it will distribute 5 million rapid tests to schools every month. It also vowed to make the capacity for an additional 5 million PCR tests available through a Department of Health and Human Services program that collects samples and sends them to labs.

A health site support worker, second from left, directs students and staff members at a Covid-19 walk-up test site at El Sereno Middle School in Los Angeles on Jan. 4.Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

“These additional tests will help schools safely remain open,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

Students are returning from winter break and case numbers are surging across the country, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus. The spike in cases has created disruptions in many school systems. Some started 2022 by switching to remote learning or delaying openings.

Chicago’s public schools canceled classes for four days after the teachers union voted to go remote, in part over disputes involving Covid testing. The union and the school district reached a deal this week that will return students to classrooms Wednesday.

In Clark County, Nevada, which covers Las Vegas, the school district announced a “five-day pause” Tuesday, citing “extreme staffing shortages based on the high number of positive COVID-19 cases.”

The Biden administration said Wednesday that efforts to run federal surge testing sites in hard-hit areas will also now look at how the programs can support schools.

The White House said the Education Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help support schools that want to set up testing programs, including how to gain access to federal funds.

The White House recently said it would buy 500 million at-home tests to be mailed to people, who could request them through a government-run website. Last week, the administration said it had finalized its first contracts related to those tests.

More recently, the administration said it would mandate that insurance companies and group health plans cover the cost of eight counter at-home tests per person each month starting Saturday. At the same time, manufacturers have struggled to meet demand.