LAUSD’s mandatory weekly COVID tests are part of ‘Swiss cheese model’ as new school term approaches

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A COVID-19 banner is displayed at Canyon Charter Elementary in Santa Monica. \ Photo by Brian Hardzinski/KCRW

As Los Angeles Unified School District gets ready to welcome kids back to campuses later this month, it says it will require weekly testing for students, teachers, and employees regardless of vaccination status. On top of mandatory masks and social distancing, those regular tests serve as an added safety measure against the Delta variant, which is now surging in LA County. Parents must also decide by the end of this week whether to send their kids back to school or continue remote education.

Today is the start of baseline coronavirus testing for students returning to in-person instruction, says LA Times education reporter Howard Bloom. It’s a familiar experience for students who returned to the classroom in April, but vastly new for others just returning this fall. 

“The district also will have never tested at this volume before. But they've had a whole year to get ready for it. And they tell us they're ready,” Blume tells KCRW. “And of course everybody's terrified over the new variant — just to make things a little more complicated. “

He says that by default, students will be going back to a full-time, in-person schedule five days a week. LAUSD wants to ensure students are socially distanced, but they also want as many students as possible to return. And so they’re turning to multiple safety measures. 

“You wear masks indoors and outdoors. The outdoors part is controversial because people say it's not important,” he says. “But you have these other layers of safety. You have improved ventilation. … You have as much social distancing as you can manage, and you have frequent cleaning.”

He continues, “It's sort of like this Swiss cheese model. If you have one piece of Swiss cheese, you see a huge holes in it, right? But if you put more pieces of Swiss cheese, soon there aren't any holes visible. And if that were a virus going through that Swiss cheese, maybe you've prevented that virus from getting through.”

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