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Michigan launches voluntary school COVID-19 testing regimen

A staff member and three students at Kermit PK8 will quarantine after testing positive for...
A staff member and three students at Kermit PK8 will quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.(WSAZ)
Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 7:01 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan is launching a new weekly COVID-19 testing regimen designed to help schools reopen for in-person learning by the end of February.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the voluntary MI Safe Schools Testing Program on Tuesday, which involves weekly testing of educators using rapid antigen COVID-19 diagnostic test kits. The program launched Tuesday with 300 schools and 9,000 staff signed up.

The state is offering all testing supplies for free to public and private schools.

“Voluntary testing of educators is part of the larger state strategy of keeping students, staff and communities safe while giving children the in-person instruction that they need to learn, develop and grow,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel.

High school athletes in Michigan have been participating in a similar pilot project since the fall sports season resumed in December. State health officials say more than 8,300 students and coaches received periodic testing, which identified 69 asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

“Testing is the way we are going to be able to identify cases of COVID-19 and reduce the spread of this virus. Signing this order today helps make sure we are eliminating as many barriers to testing as possible,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who is Michigan’s chief medical executive.

All high schools in Michigan were required to close for in-person instruction on Nov. 18, when COVID-19 case rates were climbing rapidly. They were allowed to reopen for students on Dec. 21, but some districts have opted to remain closed or continue a hybrid learning plan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a goal in January of providing the option of in-person learning for all Michigan students by March 1. That could include a full classroom schedule five days per week or a hybrid option with some days in the classroom and some remote learning.

Lapeer High School announced a two-week pause of in-person learning on Tuesday after 18 positive COVID-19 cases were diagnosed over the past two weeks, resulting in more than 200 students and staff placed in quarantine.

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