University of Alabama at Birmingham: COVID-19 asymptomatic testing program for Alabama K-12 schools extended for 2022-2023 school year, new services added

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health will extend its free and voluntary COVID-19 testing and prevention program for public and private K-12 schools through the 2022-2023 school year. The program offers new services including HEPA air purifiers, rapid over-the-counter test kits, optional student rewards cards, funding to hire on-site testing liaisons, and supplemental funding for participating private schools and public school districts as funds are available.

“We received positive feedback from schools that participated in this program last year and this summer,” said Martha Wingate, DrPH, chair of the UAB Department of Health Policy and Organization and principal investigator of the program. “The additional services will help better protect students and staff against COVID-19 and other common illnesses like flu.”

HEPA air purifiers are available for high-traffic areas in schools such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, nurses’ offices and larger classrooms. Bulk rapid test kit orders are beneficial for larger school gatherings such as dances, sporting events and assemblies. Schools can opt in for funding for an on-site liaison to assist with the testing process. The school can hire a liaison to coordinate the logistical needs of testing in the school to take the burden off school staff.

For the weekly testing program, student participant rewards cards and supplemental funding are available for schools that opt in to the program. The supplemental funding program has specific guidelines for spending, as the intention is to reimburse schools for staff time spent on the program. Schools are not required to utilize all services to participate in this year’s program; school districts and schools may customize their offerings based on the list of options above.

The free program launched in August 2021 in collaboration with the Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama State Department of Education. In the first year, 223 schools across the state participated and administered over 141,000 PCR tests and 300 rapid antigen tests across the state. Over the summer, the program shifted its resources to help allocate more than 167,000 rapid tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for summer camps and programs.

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