by Guy Page
Vermont Agency of Education officials says Omicron spreads too quickly to track with contact tracing and PCR testing. Schools will be “shifting gears” to student at-home antigen testing, Education Secretary Dan French said in a Jan. 6 press statement, which appears below.
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In 2022, the way testing for COVID-19 looks in Vermont schools will be different. These changes are necessary due to the speed at which the Omicron variant transmits. Many of the tools that we have used successfully in the past are no longer a good use of resources because they cannot keep pace with how quickly Omicron spreads.
Vermont schools will be shifting gears from contact tracing and PCR surveillance tests to rapid antigen tests, which will be distributed to households so that families can test students at home. This program decreases the burden on schools while still allowing unvaccinated students who have been in close contact to someone with COVID-19 to continue to attend school as long as they test negative at home each day.
Vaccinated students who are close contacts will continue to be able to attend school without testing. Students are considered vaccinated if they have completed their initial two-dose series of vaccine.
School nurses will be able to test anyone in the school community who develops symptoms at school using rapid antigen or LAMP tests.
The state is in the process of implementing this program, which includes communication and planning with school leadership and finalizing logistics. Families should stay tuned to their schools and school districts for more information about how testing will look in their community.
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Critics of the new plan – including Progressive blogger John Walters – say the state has no effective alternative plan in place, and that the long-expected Omicron variant may rage unchecked through schools.