Chicago schools prep for omicron, let some unvaccinated students test out of COVID-19 quarantine
Chicago Public Schools will increase testing and give unvaccinated students a chance to test out of quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. Administrators are bracing for the omicron variant
Chicago Public Schools are testing a new program through which unvaccinated students can test out of quarantine after they come in close contact with someone with COVID-19.
The program will start with one undisclosed elementary school and expand to others based on success and feedback. The move comes as the omicron variant was detected in California.
As part of the program, an unvaccinated student who is exposed to COVID-19 can continue in-person learning with parental permission and be tested on the first, third, fifth, and seventh day after their exposure.
In October, CPS shortened the required quarantine from 14 to 10 days. There were 4,900 students and fewer than 200 adults in quarantine or isolation Nov. 29, and over 7,600 the day before Thanksgiving. Half of CPS students 12 and older are fully vaccinated as well as 90% of employees.
City public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said schools do not appear to play a major role in spreading the virus. Nonetheless, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said they’ll continue to ramp up testing to reach 10% of students per school per week, with additional testing depending on the omicron variant’s trajectory. Chicago has roughly 330,000 students.
Martinez said CPS can currently conduct 40,000 tests per week, with tests mandatory for unvaccinated employees and voluntary for students. Back in October, the Chicago Teachers Union criticized early CPS testing efforts, citing “ongoing failures.”
“We’re making contingency plans in case after the holidays, and hopefully we don’t have to use them, but, again, I want those decisions. And that guidance really comes from the medical professionals.” Martinez said.