Schools May Need 176 Million Coronavirus Tests Each Month to Safely Reopen

September 12, 2020 Topic: Politics Region: Americas Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: CoronavirusEducationReopening SchoolsCoronavirus Testing

Schools May Need 176 Million Coronavirus Tests Each Month to Safely Reopen

How fast could that actually happen?


The United States may need upwards of 176 million coronavirus tests each month to safely reopen schools, according to a report by health-policy experts at the Rockefeller Foundation and Duke University.

Meeting this goal, however, will be difficult to achieve, as the current testing capacity in the country is roughly twenty-one million tests per month, according to the COVID Tracking Project.


The report suggests that teachers and students should be tested twice per week in areas with elevated numbers of coronavirus cases. And another 17.4 million tests per month should go to nursing homes, where the population has a higher risk of dying from the virus.

“Most of the nation’s school children have not returned to classrooms full time this fall, straining families as well as employers. This must change,” the report reads.

“The goal is to give schools, businesses, and other critical institutions a pathway toward operating safely even for higher-risk populations and with continuing community spread.”

Only a few K-12 school districts, however, have robust testing programs in place. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest in the country, recently established a $210 million endeavor to test and contact-trace students and teachers.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio came to an agreement with the city’s teachers’ union that would make mandatory a wide-ranging coronavirus testing schedule.

“It is critical that schools reopen for a more complete learning experience as well as social supports for many children and enable many parents to return to regular work,” the report states.

The health-policy experts noted that with increased financial support from the federal government, reaching these lofty testing goals is indeed achievable.

“To get this done, the federal government must provide more guidance, assistance and advance funding to manufacturers and payers, and should take further steps to coordinate these efforts with state and local governments,” the report reads.

Recently released data is showing that more than 500,000 children in the United States have already tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the pandemic started, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

And that troubling number seems to be trending upward, as 70,630 new child cases were registered from August 20 through September 3—a 16 percent increase over the span of two weeks.

Children now represent nearly 10 percent of all coronavirus cases in the country, which has witnessed the world’s biggest outbreak of the contagion.

Now more than eight months into the pandemic, there are roughly twenty-eight million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, including at least 906,000 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.