Colorado Gov. Jared Polis stopped at a few homes of Pueblo County educators Monday night as part of his commitment to expand at-home COVID-19 testing and protection of educators from the virus.
The state’s goal is to have schools across Colorado return to in-person learning soon, and thus vaccination and testing of educators is an important first step.
“In-person learning is critical for the health, safety, and well-being of students and the whole family. We know that remote learning is really hurting the participation of women in the workplace, juvenile mental health, childhood hunger, and loss of learning for our students,” Polis said in a provided statement. “That’s why since last fall when students started returning to school, my administration has spared no expense to implement a highly effective layered approach to safety.”
These tests are different from the PCR tests that have been provided to communities across the state, including more than 230,000 tests to teachers and the education community through Jan. 28.
The BinaxNOW tests, provided in part through a partnership with eMed, allow for at-home testing of educators, with 2 million purchased by the state to be distributed directly to the homes of teachers, staff and selected students from the hundreds of participating public and private schools across the state. The new tests are launching with early access in three states, including Colorado.
Each test retails for about $25, but through connection with a phone application and guidance of a telehealth session, BinaxNOW tests provide COVID-19 test results within 15 minutes of the nasal swab to help provide real-time data on the disease and how it is spreading.
The first 2 million tests are expected to last for the first month of the program, and subsequent months would be funded through a cost-share agreement between schools and the state, or through reimbursement by the federal government.
Some of the tests were hand-delivered by Polis to Pueblo County educators as he made several stops to households in the county.
The tests are approved for administration every five days, which amounts to about six times each month for ongoing screening. The increased screening will help increase the likelihood of accurately identifying incidents of COVID-19 among Colorado’s education population.
The faster tests are just one of several safety measures the state is working to implement in all public schools. In addition, students, staff and educators must wear masks, screen for symptoms, ensure good ventilation for indoor spaces, isolate cohorts to prevent spread of the virus, enforce quarantines and social distance while still practicing good personal hygiene and sanitization of public spaces.
According to the governor’s website, the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center will continue the distribution of masks for teachers at public, charter and private schools through the end of the 2020-21 school year. To date, the state has distributed 7 million masks to schools.
Chieftain reporter Heather Willard can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @HeatherDWrites.