School-based programs to test for Covid-19 in students could preserve in-person instruction and help extracurriculars continue, according to a study published Friday in the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The report from researchers in Utah detailed two state programs, called Test To Play and Test to Stay. Under Test to Play, students were tested for Covid-19 every 14 days in order to be allowed to continue extracurriculars. In Test to Stay, school-wide testing was implemented in response to outbreaks, as opposed to a switch to remote instruction.
Both programs were facilitated by the Utah Department of Health. Over half of Utah’s high schools participated in Test to Play, while 13 schools used Test to Stay.
Over the course of the study, 59,552 students were tested as part of the two programs. Only 3.2% of students tested returned a positive test result.
Researchers credited these programs with preserving 95% of planned athletic events, and for saving an estimated 109,752 days of in-person instruction among all the students tested in participating schools.
“By identifying 1,886 cases among students, Utah’s testing programs likely helped reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools and communities through isolation of students with diagnosed infections and quarantine of contacts,” researchers said.
Study authors suggested health departments increase community messaging efforts to encourage schools to participate in testing programs, and said Utah’s programs could serve as an example for states looking to implement similar protocols.