The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is launching a new program "that will provide regular Covid-19 testing and contact tracing to school staff, students and their families," Superintendent Austin Beutner announced in a news release Sunday.
Beutner called the effort "unprecedented" but necessary.
"Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate," he said.
Los Angeles has been one of the cities hardest hit by the virus in the United States. As of the end of Sunday, nearly 222,000 people had contracted the virus and at least 5,254 had died.
The new program will begin testing on Monday. Staff members working at schools along with their children who participate in childcare provided by the district will be among the first group to be tested in the phased roll out of the program.
Eventually, all staff and students will be tested, which will be followed by periodic testing, the district said. LAUSD is also planning to provide testing to household members of staff and students who test positive or show symptoms.
“This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area. This program will also provide significant education benefits for students by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there. We hope this effort also will provide learnings which can benefit other school systems and communities across the nation as we all combat this pandemic,” Beutner said.
“Since schools were closed, science has been our guide and science creates the foundation for this effort,” Beutner said in the release. “This collaboration is the result of months of around-the-clock work by many, and I’m grateful for their efforts to get us to this point.”
Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and UCLA agreed to provide pro bono services of strategic interpretation of the testing evidence and epidemiological modeling.
The data collected from the research will be available to the general public, the school system said in the announcement.