LAUSD introduces massive COVID-19 testing plan. How will it work?

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A free coronavirus diagnostic test is seen, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 6, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has announced the country’s most ambitious coronavirus testing and contact tracing plan. It would apply to 700,000 students, according to Superintendent Austin Beutner’s office.

Beutner says this effort will help prepare for the eventual return to in-person classes. Distance learning will still happen this fall. 

Beutner says because this is a pilot program, there are a lot of issues to prepare for: “Labs may have issues, test results might be late. Students or staff might be absent on the day of testing at a school, where contact tracing efforts might not reach every family. But if it works, it can be a model for other school districts and communities across the country.”

LA Times education reporter Howard Blume tells KCRW, “Statewide, you know we have a big problem with having enough tests and getting the results back quickly. So they’ve [LAUSD] tried to deal with the architecture of that. They have a couple of labs lined up to provide tests and to also process the tests. Because a test is a snapshot in time. And if you don’t get results back quickly from a test, it actually has limited value.”

Blume says LAUSD is trying to have its own staff do both testing and contact tracing. “Contact tracing will be carried out in part by bus drivers, as it turns out. Because they are not driving buses with school children. And now I guess they’ll have to be trained to be contact tracers. So there are a lot of people who are taking on new roles.”

He says this is a major public health exercise that the district is not familiar with. “Learning as we go, as we say.”

Credits

Guest:
Howard Blume - education reporter for the Los Angeles Times - @howardblume

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin