Omicron Child Care Woes Could Be Alleviated If Massachusetts ‘Test and Stay’ Program Successful

Young school girl doing a Covid self-test at home.
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A surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant has working parents once again worried about what to do if their kids are forced home from school. A proposed plan in Massachusetts could provide the answer by implementing a “test and stay” program at child care centers.

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“Test and stay,” also called “test to stay,” refers to letting COVID-19-exposed students and teachers stay in class if they test negative. The policy has already been adopted in many U.S. school districts after research in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas found that it didn’t lead to an increase in COVID-19 infections, the Associated Press reported. In December, “test to stay” was endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Massachusetts’ own “test and stay” program will launch in the coming weeks, according to MassLive, which cited comments made to the Boston Globe by Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, the state’s commissioner of early education and care. The hope is that if the program proves successful there, it will lead more states to adopt it.

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Education officials in Massachusetts are meeting with the state’s Department of Public Health on potential adjustments for thousands of child care providers – including how to overcome a shortage of rapid COVID tests.

“We know that our families are relying on child care to go to work,” Aigner-Treworgy told the Globe. “So we do want to provide alternatives to pulling children out of care for quarantine, but making sure we do so safely.”

During a recent news conference at a school in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said he heard from parents who said the “test and stay” program “has been invaluable” in terms of understanding what was going on with students, teachers and staff.

“[It] also gave them comfort that people were in a safe environment,” Baker added.

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A Boston nonprofit, Neighborhood Villages, has been enlisted to help the state distribute 40,000 rapid tests to child care workers. As of late last week, about 2,100 of the state’s 7,000 child care providers were enrolled to receive the tests.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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