State will provide 200,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to K-12 employees

State education officials are planning to provide school districts with 200,000 at-home rapid COVID-19 tests for their teachers and staff and are encouraging school personnel to take one of the antigen tests before returning to work after the winter break.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Wednesday that each district will receive enough tests to distribute two to every school staff member, and that superintendents will soon receive more information on the regional sites where districts will be able to pick up their test supply. Purchased through an out-of-state vendor using about $5.6 million in federal school relief funds, the shipment is expected to arrive in Massachusetts by Thursday, the department said.

"DESE staff worked very hard to secure these at-home rapid antigen tests for schools and we are all grateful for their efforts and hard work to help schools during this difficult time," Education Secretary James Peyser said in a statement. "We all remain committed to keeping schools open despite the recent uptick in COVID cases."

The department said it also distributed more than 6 million KN95 masks to schools last week "to provide one mask per day for all public school teachers and staff, including bus drivers, to wear when school reopens in January."

In its last COVID-19 report before the holiday break, DESE tallied 8,576 new cases among students and 1,544 new staff cases over the week from Dec. 16-22. The positivity rate for the routine pooled testing program in schools was 3.29% for the week from Dec. 13-19. The department plans to next post new COVID-19 data on Jan. 6.



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