University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health announced today it will offer voluntary COVID-19 testing in Alabama K-12 schools to students, faculty and staff who are asymptomatic, meaning individuals who do not have obvious symptoms.In collaboration with the Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama State Department of Education, the
The COVID-19 testing program will test only faculty and staff who have provided consent and students whose parents or legal guardians have given consent. The UAB team will work with schools and testing companies to create individualized testing plans that fit with each school environment.
“The goal of the program is to support and maintain in-person learning for K-12 schools and minimize interruption in the educational environment,” said Martha Wingate, DrPH, chair of the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy in UAB’s School of Public Health and principal investigator of the program. “It is voluntary, free and safe.”
Alabama K-12 schools are set to begin in-person learning during a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in the state. According to David Kimberlin, M.D., co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, the Delta variant is twice as easily spread from person to person and poses a new obstacle to school systems trying to return to normalcy.
Routine screening of asymptomatic people will reduce the “silent” spread of the virus and limit interruption to in-person learning. Additionally, with students under 12 ineligible to receive the vaccine, and varying mask requirements throughout the state, testing is an important COVID-19 mitigation tool.
“Ultimately, testing is an important way to maintain a safe learning environment and protect the students, teachers, staff, those they go home to every day and the broader community,” Wingate said.