CDC and VDH recommend implementing diagnostic testing and screening testing as additional layers of prevention in schools, where feasible. Testing does not replace other mitigation practices, such as masking and physical distancing; however, when schools implement testing combined with other mitigation 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 is not required for schools to provide in-person instruction and should be offered on a volunteer basis. Two testing strategies pertain to schools—diagnostic testing and screening testing.
Diagnostic testing is intended to determine whether an individual with symptoms of COVID-19 (a “symptomatic individual”), or an individual without symptoms who was a close contact to a known case of COVID-19 (an “asymptomatic close contact”), is infected with COVID-19. Conducting diagnostic testing in schools can accelerate the timeline on which students/staff with COVID-19 symptoms are diagnosed, so schools can take mitigation measures to protect the school community quickly.
Screening testing is intended to identify infected people who may be contagious as early as possible so measures can be taken to prevent further transmission of illness. It is estimated that asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals account for more than 50% of COVID-19 transmissions. Conducting screening in schools consists of at least weekly testing of a group of asymptomatic individuals on a regular basis. For more general guidance on testing in K-12 schools, refer to VDH’s Interim Guidance to K-12 School Reopening and CDC’s Testing in K-12 Schools.
The Virginia Department of Education in collaboration with VDH is launching two K-12 school testing pilot programs. These pilot programs begin in April and conclude June 30, 2021: a diagnostic testing pilot program and a screening testing pilot program.
VDH will provide free testing supplies and implementation guidance to schools that choose to participate in these programs. For information on each of the pilot programs, including school responsibilities and resources provide by VDH, see the program overview documents:
- K-12 COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Pilot Program Overview
- K-12 COVID-19 Screening Testing Pilot Program Overview
More detailed information on both programs can also be found in the COVID-19 Testing Pilot Programs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Additionally, the K-12 BinaxNOW Testing Process Flow graphic depicts how testing is implemented in schools at a high-level.
Schools who would like to opt-in to the program should ensure they can meet the program requirements outlined in the Overview documents. Schools can use the Readiness Review Checklist below to organize their planning. Once a school is able to meet all requirements, they should complete the Readiness Review Checklist and return it to VDH at firstname.lastname@example.org . Once VDH reviews the Checklist and verifies the school’s readiness, VDH will send testing supplies directly to the school via the designated school primary point of contact.
If at any point in the process, schools have additional questions, they should reach out to email@example.com.
Pilot Program Office Hours
VDH will host K-12 Testing Office Hours every Thursday from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. beginning Thursday, April 15 for schools that have questions or would like to engage with the VDH Central Office Team. If you are interested in attending an office hours session, please register using this link.
K-12 Statewide Standing Order
The BinaxNOW Ag cards currently available to schools are prescription-only items, which require an order from a person with prescriptive authority (e.g., physician). However, Dr. Oliver, the State Health Commissioner, has also signed a statewide standing order to authorize BinaxNOW testing for students and staff in K-12 schools. Schools that elect to use the K-12 Statewide Standing Order will not need a separate prescription to perform testing, but will need to comply with all provisions of the Order, including identifying a licensed healthcare professional (e.g., school nurse) to provide supervision.