Many students, especially younger than 12, are asked to quarantine when the school reports a close contact with a person with the virus. The CDC is now evaluating the “test to stay” program, where students who have contacted an infected will now test for the virus, and remain on campus if they are tested negative, contrasting to everyone staying home. 

Three different superintendents from three different schools have reported that the test to stay method has been successful: majority of the students are able to learn in person, and the school is slowing down the spread of the virus. “In Marietta we have been tracking students who are testing positive through test-to-stay, and it’s 3%,” Grant Rivera, superintendent of Marietta City Schools in Georgia, told CNN on Monday. “Three percent of our students who participate in test-to-stay test positive, which means we can keep 97% of them in class,” Rivera said. “That is a measure of success.” This means that only a small percent remain negative despite the large number of people the person with covid may have contacted. Even though someone may come in contact with an infected person, that does not necessarily mean that everyone who comes in contact will get sick. 

CDC is discussing a potential strategy for the new “test to stay” idea. The policy will be known to prioritize testing to track who has been exposed to COVID-19. A handful of successful schools report that there were some measures that were added to the test to stay: the school requires all children to have masks on for the whole duration of school. “[Test-to-stay] has allowed us to test for in-school exposures — where in the past last year, if you remember, anybody who was a close contact was quarantined. The big things for us is there must be appropriate, layered mitigation, such as social distancing and mask-wearing,” Karner, a superintendent in Lake County, Illinois, said. “If those are not being followed, then the test-to-stay program would not work for those close contacts.” She continues, “Last year we had lots of students — hundreds of students — quarantine just because they were close contacts. But this year, we found that we’ve been able to keep several hundred individuals that were contacts in schools, and we’ve also been able to get data with regards to exposure.”

As CDC and some schools are testing the waters to a new “test-to-stay” protocol, more schools are being invited to experiment with this method.

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