With schools reopening for in-person instruction, the Murphy Administration today announced details of a $267 million testing program for students and staff at New Jersey’s K-12 schools, which will enable districts to access full testing services from designated vendors or receive funds to support programs already in place.
“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,” Governor Murphy said.
“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 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 testing, including that 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 a low, moderate, high, or very high level of virus activity.
Districts that do not choose to use an end-to-end vendor can receive funding to support testing programs that they already have in place.
This program can also be used by schools to support compliance with EO 253, which requires unvaccinated school staff to submit to testing once to twice per week at a minimum.
“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,” state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
“We all want the safest return to school for our children and staff and to help keep them in the classroom.”
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.
“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.”
Currently, CDC recommends that fully vaccinated persons do not 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.
The COVID-19 CALI screening testing matrix provides recommended testing strategies based on a region’s level of virus activity, including:
- Screening testing of teachers and staff across all levels who are not fully vaccinated at least once a week
- Student testing may not be necessary for students in a low-level region (green), but screening testing of students who are not fully vaccinated or random samples of students at least once a week in moderate to very high-level regions (yellow/orange/red)
- Testing of students who are not fully vaccinated participating in all sports and higher-risk extracurricular activities (such as singing, band) at least once per week in low to moderate regions (green/yellow)
- Testing of students who are not fully vaccinated participating in higher-risk sports and extracurricular activities twice per week in high to very high regions (orange/red), in addition to testing of students and staff who are not fully vaccinated participating in lower-risk sports at least once per week in high to very high regions (orange/red)
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.
Additional health and safety information provided by NJDOH and NJDOE for school reopenings can be found in The Road Forward.