With a lack of COVID-19 tests and patience across California and the US, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Biden administration announced new initiatives on Wednesday to provide more relief for schools and the public reeling from a pandemic.
“We have to do more,” Newsom admitted amid a crush of cases in schools and hospitals and a shortage of crippled workers. He announced a $2.7 billion COVID-19 Emergency Response Package, which he said will focus on keeping schools open and propelling the economy by increasing vaccines, boosters, statewide testing and medical personnel. He said he expected MPs to act on it “with a sense of urgency”.
“We don’t want to see these lines,” Newsom said outside a mobile testing site in the Los Angeles County city of Paramount. “People are disappointed.”
Appointments last week for highly accurate molecular PCR COVID tests, as millions returned to school and work from a winter break, were being offered for weeks, while the less sensitive but faster and cheaper at-home antigen test stores were It was difficult to find. Online. Problems persist this week as social media groups try to connect frantic test-seekers with appointments and test kit retailers.
The White House announced Wednesday that it would provide an additional 10 million tests a month – half by rapid tests and half by PCR tests – to help students, faculty and staff avoid spreading the highly contagious virus on campuses.
The administration said the additional tests would be more than double the amount of testing conducted in schools across the country in November 2021, the most recent data available. The move comes amid frustration and criticism over a widespread lack of home and laboratory tests nationally as cases rise.
“Today the Biden-Harris administration is doubling down on our commitment to keep all schools safely open full-time by taking new action to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools,” the White House said. news statement.
The White House said it would be able to maintain ongoing screening with the goal of allowing students exposed to the virus to remain in class as long as they wear face masks and get tested at least twice. To help distribute 5 million free rapid tests to K-12 schools every month. next seven days. States can submit requests for testing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the first shipments to be delivered later this month.
For PCR tests, the White House will provide laboratory capacity to conduct an additional 5 million tests per month to help individual and pool testing in classrooms across the country. Additional testing will be given through a program funded by the American Rescue Plan to provide free PCR testing in schools nationwide.
The federal government said it would provide full reimbursement for schools that establish diagnostic and screening testing programs.
Newsom said he was “grateful” to the president for the federal help, but also expressed disappointment that it was not enough. He noted that California alone carried out more PCR and at-home antigen tests in schools over the past month than the Biden administration has promised to provide to schools spread across the country.
“We have provided 10.9 million (combined) tests for our public schools in California just in the last 30 days,” Newsom said. “While this is impressive, it gives you perspective about what we are doing in terms of shortages, especially for over-the-counter tests.”
Newsom also said that California “competed against the federal government” to ensure the availability of over-the-counter tests sent to California schools last month, before children can return to classes after winter break.
“This should not be the case at this stage of the pandemic,” Newsom said. “We were able to punch above our weight because we are Californians.”
Data tracking website Barbio, which has been publishing data on school closures during the pandemic, reported on Monday that many schools across the country have closed or reverted to online-learning due to staff shortages due to COVID.
Barbio’s data tracker showed a peak of 5,462 schools nationally where individual teaching was disrupted last week, the highest in the previous school year, a figure that has fallen to a still high 4,179 this week.
Several thousand schools that were virtual or closed for parts of the past week because of COVID-induced absenteeism plan to return to in-person learning this week. In California, they included the West Contra Costa and Oakland Unified School Districts, which temporarily closed schools due to staff shortages.