California Will Test Students, Not Close Schools, Governor Says
(Bloomberg) -- Rather than close classrooms as omicron infections surge, California will provide one or two rapid coronavirus tests for every public school student returning from winter break, Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.
California also will extend hours at state-run testing facilities and require booster shots for health-care workers to stem rising infections.
The moves come as officials nationwide struggle with whether to close schools again as the highly infectious omicron variant spreads. Many don’t want to take that step, after a year of distance learning left students isolated, depressed and falling behind. And politicians fear blowback from angry parents, should classes move online again.
“I can not impress upon you more how important it is to keep our schools open and how important it is to get our kids tested, vaccinated,” Newsom told reporters Wednesday.
Since California recorded the nation’s first omicron case earlier this month, Newsom has resisted a new round of business or school closures. Instead, he has pushed for vaccinations, boosters and ramped-up testing to limit the variant’s spread. More than 87% of the state’s population over the age of five has received at least one vaccine dose, and 8.7 million of its 40 million people have received a booster shot.
Although coronavirus infections are rising again, California is averaging about 5,400 confirmed cases per day, compared to more than 40,000 per day at this time last year.
California already sent 2 million testing kits to schools in early December but will accelerate those efforts, starting with a purchase of 6 million kits, Newsom said. California has more than 6 million students enrolled in public schools, from kindergarten through 12th grade.
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