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State health department launches COVID-19 testing program for educators

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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has rolled out a voluntary COVID-19 rapid antigen testing program that will provide free weekly tests to K-12 educators who opt in.

MDHHS is providing testing supplies at no cost to any interested public or private school. The tests will be administered on site at the school.

State health officials say the testing program will help achieve Governor Gretchen Whitmer's goal of an in-person instruction option in all Michigan schools by March 1.

"The testing program is not a stand alone solution for reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, senior public health physician at MDHHS. "The testing program is an additional strategy that we are looking to couple with our risk mitigation strategies, as well as vaccine rollout. And we believe that all of these things together will reduce the risk of transmission in schools."

Bagdasarian said other mitigation strategies include wearing masks, social distancing, and handwashing.

The testing program began on Tuesday. Bagdasarian said roughly 300 schools and 9,ooo staff have signed up for testing so far.

Bagdasarian said an individual can self administer the test by swabbing their own nose. She said participating schools will need to select staff to run the tests on site after learning how to through MDHHS online training videos and webinars. She said test results are available in 15 minutes.

Bagdasarian said tests can offer schools early detection of asymptomatic COVID cases.

She said people who test positive will be advised to take another kind of test called PCR to confirm the results. Rapid antigen tests are considered less sensitive than PCR tests.

Information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about coronavirus tests can be found here.

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Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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