Rural school districts in Pierce County could reopen under new COVID-19 testing program

 


The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is developing a COVID-19 screening and testing pilot program for K-12 staff and students that will help rural school districts reopen for in-person learning.

The health department announced the program Thursday, a day after Peninsula School District announced it would partner with the health department to continue in-person learning — a move that “surprised” health officials, who were still finalizing the program.

Pierce County Council approved $7.8 million in CARES Act funds Wednesday for the project.

The program will help districts decide whether to hold in-person classes by testing school populations to help identify cases of COVID-19 and prevent outbreaks, according to health officials.

“Rural areas can face greater challenges in accessing testing but are well suited for this pilot. We can apply what we learn in larger urban environments,” Tacoma-Pierce County Director of Health Anthony Chen said in a news release. “Putting rural communities first is an equity-informed approach.”

Work is underway with the Eatonville School District to increase testing. Eatonville serves around 2,000 students.

Peninsula (9,000 students), White River (4,000 students) and Carbonado (200 students) have already “expressed interest in participating,” the health department said.



With a six-day data lag required in the state’s Safe Start measurements, the county’s case rate per 100,000 is 122.3, well above the “high” range, in which districts are recommended to continue remote learning.

Health officials said that those under 20 account for 17.3 percent of new cases over the past two weeks and make up an increasing number of positive cases.

The pilot program is in early stages of planning.

“We all want schools to get back to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so. Access to testing is critical in this effort,” Chen said.


Rural school districts in Pierce County could reopen under new COVID-19 testing program Rural school districts in Pierce County could reopen under new COVID-19 testing program Reviewed by Anson Moore on October 30, 2020 Rating: 5

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