TRENTON – In preparation for in-person instruction, Governor Phil Murphy announced details of $267 million in funding for COVID-19 screening and testing at K-12 Schools
Funding will enable districts to access full testing services from designated vendors or receive funds to support programs already in place.
The governor said that “in order to foster a safe in-person learning environment, we must do everything within our power to keep children from being infected with COVID-19. This program will support our schools in setting up testing programs for students and staff and provide necessary assistance and resources to school districts so that they have the tools to keep their communities safe. We continue to encourage all those eligible for COVID-19 vaccines to go and get their shots to reduce the likelihood of infection, severe illness, and death from this virus.”
Testing strategies in schools are part of a comprehensive, layered prevention approach that also includes masking, physical distancing, frequent handwashing and staying home if sick.
The grant funding, made available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will assist local educational agencies (LEAs) and nonpublic schools with implementing COVID-19 screening and testing, including the testing required for unvaccinated school personnel by Executive Order No. 253. Participation in this funding program is voluntary but strongly encouraged.
This program will allow LEAs and nonpublic schools access to testing resources such as test kits, diagnostic lab services, personal protective equipment, and full turnkey testing services through state-designated vendors. LEAs and nonpublic schools must develop a testing plan in collaboration with their local health department in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Health’s (NJDOH) screening testing guidelines.
The guidelines are based on a region’s COVID-19 Activity Level (CALI) – whether a region is experiencing low, moderate, high or very high level of virus activity.
Health Commissioner Judith Perichilli said, “when schools implement testing combined with prevention strategies, they can detect new cases to prevent outbreaks, reduce the risk of further transmission, and protect students, teachers and staff from COVID-19.”
“Testing for COVID-19 will be a key mitigation strategy to keep our schools open for in-person instruction,” Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Acting Commissioner of Education said.
She added that with the combination of vaccinations, testing, and the other safety protocols being implemented in schools, “we are looking for a safe start to the school year for educators, staff, and students across New Jersey.”
The CDC currently recommends that persons who are fully vaccinated don’t need to participate in routine screening testing programs. Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three months and have recovered should not be tested as part of routine screening since test results may remain positive for up to three months, even though the individual is no longer infectious.
Individuals who test positive should be immediately excluded from school, and school-based close contacts who are not fully vaccinated or are symptomatic should be identified and excluded from school for 10 days (regional risk green/yellow) or 14 days (regional risk orange/red).
Anyone who tests positive by rapid antigen test and is asymptomatic should be additionally referred for confirmatory testing by a molecular test (for example, RT-PCR) within two days of the initial test.