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Los Angeles Unified Begins COVID-19 Testing Program (09-14-20)

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Shannon Haber, 213-393-1289                                   September 14, 2020

Los Angeles Unified Begins COVID-19 Testing Program

  • First Public School System in the Nation to Provide Testing to Students, Staff and Families 
  • 5,400 Staff Members and Their Children Received Tests Last Week 
  • District Aims to Conduct 40,000 Tests a Day When it is Safe and Appropriate for Students to Return to School

 

LOS ANGELES – (September 14, 2020) – Los Angeles Unified School District announced today that it has successfully completed the trial phase of its COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing program. The District is now testing all staff members currently working at school sites and their children, who will be in a childcare program at schools. 

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while school-based testing and contact-tracing efforts are unprecedented, they are necessary and appropriate,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area.” 

Recognizing that regular testing and contact tracing are essential to reopening Los Angeles Unified’s 1,386 schools in the safest way possible, Los Angeles Unified began planning and preparing for its program in May and announced it in August. The program and its corresponding research are a groundbreaking collaboration between Los Angeles Unified and the University California Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford University and The Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft, two testing providers, and healthcare leaders Anthem Blue Cross, Cedars-Sinai and Health Net. 

Following the initial, baseline testing of all staff and students there will be periodic testing based on advice from epidemiologists at Stanford, UCLA and The Johns Hopkins University. Their models will take into account the results of prior testing, learnings from the latest research and information about the health impacts of COVID-19 in the communities Los Angeles Unified serves. Testing will also be provided for household members of students or staff who test positive for the virus or those who show symptoms. 

The District underscored that no decision about a return to school facilities will be made until the COVID-19 case rate in Los Angeles County is significantly lower for a consistent period of time. 

COVID-19 testing for students, staff and family members is just one piece of Los Angeles Unified’s three-part return-to-school plan, which includes state-of-the-art health practices at schools and the ability to notify and isolate any members of the school community who may have come in contact with the virus. 

Classrooms and facilities already are being electrostatically cleaned top to bottom, air-filtration systems have been upgraded with the equivalent of N-95 membranes, personal protection equipment is provided to all individuals at a campus, and classrooms and facilities have been reconfigured to keep everyone at a school a safer distance apart. When students do return to schools, they will be kept in small cohorts to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. 

This week, Los Angeles Unified will begin to offer care for the children of essential workers, those individuals who are currently working at schools. About 3,000 children will be kept in small cohorts of no more than six children, together with two adults. All are being tested for the virus before they come to school. 

“This program will provide the foundation for students and teachers to return to school in the safest possible manner, and it will help keep students in school because we can identify and isolate cases before more people are exposed to the virus,” Superintendent Beutner continued. 

“With close to 700,000 students and 75,000 staff members at schools, an operation of this scale has implications beyond schools. We will be testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals and the results will be of value to researchers and policy makers as they develop plans to combat the virus and provide additional support to schools,” Superintendent Beutner concluded. 

“This program will allow testing for students, their families and school staff,” Board President Dr. Richard Vladovic said. “It is the first step in allowing a safe and secure return to school. With state-of-the-art health practices, technology and our amazing partners, Los Angeles Unified is a national leader in testing and contact tracing for our school community.” 

“The health and safety of Los Angeles Unified’s students, faculty, staff and their families remain our highest priority,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said.

“We must be learners and leaders,” Board Member Mónica García said. “Los Angeles Unified is modeling a new standard in creating conditions for learning in 2020. We must do everything we can to welcome students and employees back to school safely and responsibly. Thank you to all involved.” 

“As your Board Member, a career educator and administrator, my No. 1 priority will always be to protect the health and safety of our students and the entire school community,” Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said. “During these unprecedented times, we have limited control of a global pandemic, but what we are able to offer are solutions for families and essential workers who must return to work and need care and safe spaces for their children. The testing and contact tracing program is necessary and the first step for us, as a district, is to ensure that everyone returns to school in the safest conditions without risking the health and safety of our students, families and dedicated staff.” 

“I am proud that L.A. Unified continues to step up in innovative ways during this crisis to fill gaps in the social safety net,” Board Member Nick Melvoin said. “In the absence of a coordinated national or statewide system of testing and contact tracing, we are embarking upon this ambitious plan that we hope will contribute greatly to the health and safety of our employees, students and community and – eventually – to the return of students to safe and supportive school learning environments.” 

“We have said from the beginning we are going to follow the science,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg said. “This testing and contact-tracing program will help us get students and staff back to schools in a way that is safe and appropriate.” 

"Our testing and tracing program sets the foundation for bringing students back to campus as it helps ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Board Member Kelly Gonez said. “As a Board, we are committed to meeting the needs of our families and staff during the pandemic, and that includes slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our Los Angeles Unified community."  

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