Chicago Public School (CPS) Provides Updated January 8th Statement on Testing (Chicago, IL) – CPS has made the health and safety of our students and staff our highest priority since the onset of the pandemic. Every health and safety measure implemented has been in accordance with the guidance of the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC.
Chicago Public Schools values the support and resources of our State, and we are in active conversations with all levels of government to secure additional resources in the fight against COVID-19. We are grateful to learn tonight of a new offer from Gov. JB Pritzker to sell 350,000 rapid antigen tests to CPS and we’ll be finalizing the arrangement as soon as possible.
Vaccination Most Effective Prevention Method
Testing is one safety measure that CPS has had in place but it is just one measure. There is no medical or scientific evidence that suggests requiring 100 percent testing, especially with the full array of safety mitigation measures in place and the data on in-school transmission. Vaccination is the most effective way known to prevent infection and/or significantly prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19.
CPS receives CDC funding for COVID-19 in-school testing from the CDC through the Chicago Department of Public Health. CPS issued a Request for Proposals on June 9, 2021 for COVID-19 screening testing for asymptomatic teachers, staff and students. Through the competitive procurement process, the District awarded the contract to Thermo Fisher Scientific. The agreement is posted on the District website; link here.
Steady Increase In Numbers
Chicago Public Schools has been steadily increasing its weekly on-site COVID-19 testing this school year while also openly sharing the challenges of such work in terms of staffing and now, available test kits. Some numbers:
Over 340,000 tests have been completed by CPS since the start of this school year.
This is consent-required opt-in COVID testing provided by Thermo Fisher, and it happens weekly at all our schools across the District.
Just before winter break CPS had tested about 30,000 students and staff per week.
Thermo Fisher staff members administer the testing.
Prior to the Chicago omicron surge, the yield on that screening test was quite low (less than 1 percent of those tested were positive in mid-December 2020).
As of Jan. 6, nearly 54,000 (53,681) student voluntary testing consents were on file with the District. In other words, parents of nearly 54,000 students have agreed to voluntary testing. CPS has shared frequently and widely that parents can go to color.com/readycheckgo-cps to sign their child up for testing.
Between July 2021 and January 8, 2022, CPS has provided 495 COVID-19 vaccination events for our students, staff and families. Over 10,600 patient encounters have been provided this school year. Families who want to make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or for more information about the vaccine in children and teens, please visit cps.edu/vaccinations.
For additional context, the District delivered about 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses between Feb and June 2021, primarily to CPS staff. This is part of why more than 90 percent of CPS staff are fully vaccinated.
More data available on our on our website: https://www.cps.edu/services-and-supports/covid-19-resources/covid-19-readiness-data/
CPS Currently in Negotiations With CTU
CPS is currently in negotiations with CTU leadership to strengthen its COVID-19 testing program. We want to make it easier for families to consent to testing, and we want to make more testing available by working through our vendor and by deploying additional nursing and staff support to this effort.
CPS has taken an aggressive approach to protect children in classrooms and alert families of students considered a close contact of a positive COVID case. Our data shows that 96 to 99 percent of the children who were identified as close contacts and directed to quarantine did not go on to develop COVID-19. That is because all of the proven mitigation measures in place – universal masking, social distancing, vaccination, hand hygiene, evidence-based protocols for disinfection of contaminated spaces, adequate ventilation, testing and other measures including contact tracing. Notably, these extensive protective layers are not in place in last-minute, informal, unstable learning and care settings.
CPS Does Not Support Opt-Out
CPS does not support an Opt-Out program because we believe it is vital to get explicit parental consent for any medical test, whether we are asking children to swab their nostrils or provide a saliva sample.
CPS offers supplemental testing in some situations where there are multiple self-reported cases in a school through partnerships with Lurie Children’s Hospital and the University of Chicago. This additional strategically-targeted testing comes at no cost to the District and is supported by a grant from the Walder Foundation. We completed an Memorandum of Understanding with our academic partners in spring 2020, and through this mechanism CPS has tested hundreds of students since the start of the school year. For example, we conducted supplemental testing of more than 150 students at Carnegie Elementary School as an added support during a recent difficult period experienced by the school.
Back in the fall, CPS went through a comprehensive process to get more fiscal, operational and outreach support for our vaccination program from the State. Though unsuccessful, it would be unfair and misleading to characterize that honest effort as a “refusal” of help.
CPS considered a COVID-19 saliva test, but we felt nasal swabs were more prudent for our circumstances. The requirements of a saliva test make it a more challenging option for both our young students and those students with developmental challenges.
Many of our students start their school day with a free breakfast. The saliva test requires that children do not eat, drink or have anything in their mouths for one hour before the test is completed to get a valid result–No breakfast, no snack, no toothpaste or mouthwash, no chewing gum, etc. This is an important constraint, since many children have their first meal of the day at school.
About 91 percent of staff members are fully vaccinated. Just more than half of CPS students, ages 12 and over, are fully vaccinated and about a quarter of students ages 5-11 have received just one dose.
Chicago Public School (CPS) Provides Updated January 8th Statement on Testing
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