Let’s keep it real–the testing situation in the U.S. has been a mess for a minute. The Biden administration just announced their plan for 500 million at-home test kits would begin in mid-January, but that isn’t putting a dent into long testing lines and prices for tests starting to climb.
There has been an urge for students to get back to in-person learning as many return from winter break–but Omicron cases are surging, and the questions of whether children and teachers can stay safe. So, we turn to Chicago, where the Chicago Teachers Union voted to teach virtually until Jan. 18th. This has drawn pushback from the Chicago Department of Public Health and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
But a story from Newsweek shows the testing protocol just got more complicated. Thousands of COVID tests taken by Chicago Public Schools students and staff members have been deemed “invalid” due to not reaching the labs in time. 35,945 COVID tests were completed during the period between December 26 and January 1, but 25,027 tests were not usable and couldn’t be processed, according to data on CPS’ website.
The Chicago Teachers Union said this about the delay:
“While we continue to seek answers, we are focused on increasing on-site testing opportunities for the impacted students and schools this week as part of our ongoing weekly testing,” CPS said in the statement.
“That weekly in-school testing resumes at all our schools this week, starting with 120 schools today, as well as all other safety measures that have been in place since schools were safely re-opened to in-person learning in spring of 2021,” the school district added.
CBS Chicago reported COVID tests pilling up at mailing locations due to weather and the holidays in the last week of December. That deadline was extended to December 30th to accommodate parents who couldn’t find open drop boxes.
The Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lightfoot’s administration continue to be at an impasse when returning. Classes were canceled for a third straight day as negotiations continued. Mayor Lightfoot reiterated her goal to get a deal done in the following tweet:
Testing is only required for unvaccinated students who traveled outside of Illinois during the period, unvaccinated students who are close contacts of a known COVID case, and all students - regardless of vaccination status - who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.
No doubt, parents feel caught in the middle, as noted in an interview from Cnn below. Yes, children need to be in school, as has constantly been reiterated. However, as both cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise in Chicago, it’s equally important to do it safely. If the infrastructure is in place to test and get results back effectively, you’ll likely have to switch to remote due to sickness anyway.