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