Unvaccinated students exposed to COVID-19 can remain in the classroom as long as they're regularly tested for the virus at school, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
The CDC pointed to two new studies from California and Illinois as evidence that school districts can employ a "test-to-stay" policy to keep kids safely with in-person learning, even if they've come into contact with someone infected with COVID.
“These studies demonstrate that test-to-stay works to keep unvaccinated children in school safely,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Friday, the Washington Post reported.
The policy is “a promising and now proven practice," Walensky added.
Up to now, students usually are sent home to quarantine if they've come into close contact with an infected person, to make sure they don't infect others.
But some school districts have been trying test-to-stay, so the CDC decided to test it in Lake County, Ill. and Los Angeles County.
In Lake County, 90 schools implemented test-to-stay during this fall. Only about 1.5% of kids exposed to COVID who remained in class spread coronavirus to another student, or only 16 out of 1,035, according to the Dec. 17 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
One in five Los Angeles County schools also adopted test-to-stay this fall. Average student daily case rates declined in all county school districts, but were even lower than average in test-to-stay districts, the CDC report found.
Students wore masks in both studies, Walensky noted, and were monitored for symptoms.
“The test-to-stay programs are really good at balancing the costs and benefits,” Zoe McLaren, a health policy expert at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, told the New York Times.
“What the test-to-stay program does is help us keep COVID cases down, while also trying to make sure we keep kids in school as much as possible, which I think is really important," McLaren added.
The CDC continues to recommend that everyone 5 and older get a COVID vaccine, and that teens ages 16 and older get a booster shot after they've finished their initial vaccine series.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about COVID in schools.
SOURCES: Washington Post, New York Times, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Dec. 17, 2021