Bay Area school districts offering COVID testing to students amid post-holiday surge fears

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The first big test of the New Year for many Bay Area school children won't have anything to do with math or science, but instead, making sure they don't bring COVID back to the classroom.

"The vast majority of our students and staff got COVID tests that we were able to send home courtesy of the state," said John Sasaki, spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District.

Oakland Unified is among the major districts in the Bay Area trying to head off a school-driven surge of the highly contagious omicron variant when students return for in-person learning next week.

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"What we suggested to them is that they test on Friday, which was yesterday and then again tomorrow," explained Sasaki. "So we're catching up with anything that might've gone on during the course of the break."

West Contra Costa County ordered 30,000 test kits, with plans to distribute them at two sites, Richmond's Kennedy High School and Pinole Valley High School on Sunday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., just in time for Monday's start of classes.

San Francisco Unified will offer mobile rapid testing at its district office at 555 Franklin Street and through the week at school sites.

Until then, families are urged find testing wherever they can, but with demand high and supply low, it's clear that many students may not be tested before they return to class.

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The demand for COVID-19 testing has surged as President Biden is making 500 million free rapid tests available to Americans next month.



"I think testing is a great idea to get tested, but it's not the be-all end-all," said UC San Francisco's infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. "If you have scarcity of testing, I would definitely test those who are symptomatic."

While omicron's rapid spread is certainly alarming, along with the scarcity of available home tests at pharmacies far and wide, Dr. Chin-Hong says there may be a silver lining... at the end of the surge.

"We may have another variant in the future, whether that will be next winter or earlier remains to be seen," said Chin-Hong, "but certainly certainly one outcome of all of this is that we are definitely going to increase our population immunity even more than before."

Chin-Hong stressed that students should really be using high-quality masks, like the surgical variety, rather than those made of cloth, when they return to in-person classes to help stem the spread of omicron.

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