Thursday marked the last day for Chicago Public School families to hand in their at-home COVID-19 testing for students before Monday’s return to in-person learning.
The CPS on Tuesday distributed more than 150,000 PCR tests to more than 300 schools in the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Students who test positive will be asked to stay home.
Pedro Martinez, CEO of Chicago Public Schools is confident of returning to in-person learning after the winter break and says COVID-19 case rates within CPS have been found to be lower than the community positivity rate.
“In fact, what we’re seeing are cases starting in the community and coming to schools,” Martinez said. “As Omicron arrived just before the break, we were transitioning more classes to be remote…we are being very proactive to make sure we prevent outbreaks.”
Earlier this week, photos from the Chicago Teachers Union showed an overflow at Fed-Ex Drop Box locations where CPS families had to leave completed COVID test kits. Some families stayed “struggling to find safe and secure places to leave their kits”, CTU said in a tweet.
According to Martinez, more than 37,000 accounts have been created by families this morning, indicating the number of parents participating in home COVID-19 testing.
“It shows our parents take it seriously,” Martinez said. “We were able to retrieve all of these tests… All of these tests were safe in sealed packets. They are received by our supplier’s laboratory. »
Still, Martinez expects a high positivity rate in January.
“Because we’ve been on hiatus for two weeks, we’re going to see an increase in cases, which is why it’s important for us to catch these cases as soon as possible,” Martinez said.
CTU has proposed a 14-day systemwide pause if cases across the city increase at high rates. CTU Treasurer Maria Moreno told WTTW News on Tuesday that CTU is requiring rapid COVID testing on Monday for all students and staff.
“When they arrive in the morning, they should be tested,” Moreno said. “This will give us a clear indication of the level of COVID transmission in homes. It’s a very big concern because we don’t know what’s going on in the schools because there’s very little testing going on. »
Martinez says there could be a possibility of test more only once a week, but pointed to the nationwide shortage of COVID test kits.
“Rapid tests aren’t as powerful as PCR tests,” Martinez said. “For me, my fear is that [rapid testing in school] give us a false sense of security. The real solution is vaccines.
According to Martinez, more than 91% of CPS staff and almost all teachers are vaccinated, but he says uneven vaccination rates across the city play a role in schools.
“I have schools where over 80% of children are vaccinated, other schools where less than 10% of children are vaccinated,” Martinez said. “In these types of situations, we’ve given our principals, as they see cases coming into the community school, the ability to move these classes immediately to remote even before contact tracing.”