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To end Tennessee school closures, federal government aid just isn’t enough

Thought Leader: Robert Redfield
February 10, 2022
Source: Link

By Robert Redfield

It was never in the public health interest of students to close schools and move to virtual learning. As the pandemic enters its third year, schools must utilize every tool in their tool box to keep infections under control and kids in classrooms.

As in many other places, the biggest issue Tennessee schools are facing is staffing. Teachers and support staff are themselves getting sick and staying home. When schools don’t have enough bodies to operate schools safely, they have to shift to remote instruction or close altogether — the very worst case scenario.

Sustained in-classroom instruction can only be achieved by adopting a testing mindset. Test-to-Stay is a proactive public health practice aligned with CDC recommendations.

Students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 are tested. Those who test negative stay in the classroom, while those who test positive go home until they are no longer positive. This more accurate and aggressive approach to testing identifies asymptomatic students and staff in time to remove them from the transmission pool.

Here is how Test-to-Stay works

Test-to-Stay, paired with robust contact tracing and vaccinations, is the most effective way to reduce the spread and keep kids in school. Test-to-Stay will keep both students and staff in the classroom and alleviates community transmissions as well. The fewer in-person days missed, the better.

Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, while at the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

To implement Test-to-Stay, Tennessee needs an estimated 8 million tests a month. This is a lot. It will take a strong coordinated effort. We must prioritize testing in schools first and foremost, and we must also take regional needs into consideration.

We cannot neglect the needs of rural school districts. While metropolitan areas have reached their peak in omicron cases, rural parts of the state have not caught up to reach theirs.

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