PA Offers New Testing, More Vaccinations for Schools

By Emily Scott, Public News Service
for The Post

HARRISBURG, Pa. — With only few weeks until school starts, the state departments of Health and Education announced new initiatives Monday (April 16, 2021) to keep K-12 schools and universities open amid the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Acting Pennsylvania Health Secretary Alison Beam signed an executive order Monday directing vaccine providers in the state to coordinate vaccination clinics at schools and universities when requested by administrators. She also introduced a free, voluntary COVID-19 testing program available to K-12 schools weekly.

Beam said public health investments will help keep COVID out of classrooms. “It’s clear everyone wants to keep kids in the classroom, and keep extracurricular activities going,” she observed. “That’s why we are encouraging all K-12 schools to take advantage of this unique opportunity to bring COVID-19 testing into schools at no expense to the school.”

A Boston-based company, Ginkgo Bioworks, will operate the pooled testing program. It will combine nasal swab samples from a classroom and run them as a single test to quickly determine any COVID-19 cases.

Providers will be expected to coordinate vaccination clinics for school’s employees, volunteers, students, and student families within the school community.

Education Secretary Noe Ortega said the new programs will be key to making sure in-person learning can continue. The initiatives announced Monday “are vital to our success,” he claimed. “I encourage all our schools to coordinate COVID-19 vaccination clinics for their communities as soon as possible. And I encourage all K-12 schools to participate in testing programs as well.”

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll said parents were twice as likely to get their kids vaccinated if schools provided them with information and research that helped them decide.

Photo from Adobe Stock, provided by Public News Service and used under license