Proposed legislation in California will require all K-12 public schools to develop COVID-19 test plans for students and staff and the funding of schools to do so, Senator Richard Pan said when he announced it Tuesday.
“It’s really important that schools know what’s going on in their schools when it comes to COVID,” said Pan, a pediatrician. “COVID testing allows schools to identify positive cases and then quarantine those who are ill, helping to reduce the spread of the virus.”
The legislation will also apply to kindergartens, kindergartens and after-schools.
That would require the California Department of Public Health to work with school districts to develop a test plan. The bill does not specify the frequency of testing, or whether it should apply to all students and staff or just the unvaccinated, and leaves these decisions to each school district.
Pan said the proposed funding would be determined at a later date based on how much the state and federal governments have already dispensed for school tests and other data collected.
Under current guidance from the California Department of Public Health, school districts are encouraged, but not required, to perform regular COVID-19 tests to detect infections early and reduce the spread of the virus. The state offers funding for testing, but many districts have said they do not have enough staff to carry out comprehensive testing programs.
With the current omicron wave subsiding, California health officials say they will reconsider the need for a school mask mandate on Feb. 28 based on factors that include vaccination rates among children and hospital capacity. All students and staff are currently required to wear face clothing indoors.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October the country’s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for school children. But it is unlikely to take effect until this summer and allows for exceptions for medical reasons and personal beliefs.
Pan has proposed legislation that would remove the personal belief exemption in the school-based COVID-19 vaccine requirement, similar to a 2015 law that eliminated the personal belief exemption for all other child vaccinations required by the state for school children.