How school COVID-19 testing supports in-person learning this school year

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) have recommended layered health and safety measures for the protection of all children and staff in Oregon schools. How much protection do these measures provide?  

Every layer matters. Regular COVID-19 testing will help Oregon schools identify cases of COVID-19 infection early. Combined with cohorting, this will also help schools determine which students or staff need to isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others. 

How regular testing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 

In Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 2021-22 School Year, OHA and ODE strongly advise that schools implement COVID-19 testing. There are two student testing programs available to all public and private schools in Oregon. The student testing programs are: 

  • Diagnostic testing for K-12 students using Abbott BinaxNOW rapid tests. This program is intended to test symptomatic and exposed students. This can help diagnose COVID-19 infection early and may be used to shorten the duration of quarantine for exposed students.  
  • Screening testing for unvaccinated students using molecular (PCR) tests. This weekly program is for students without symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to COVID-19. Participating schools will be assigned to a regional laboratory partner. Participation in this program and all results are confidential. However, positive COVID-19 results must be reported to the local public health authority for case investigation and contact tracing.  

To learn more, read OHA’s frequently asked questions about K-12 testing programs

In-school testing is free, quick and easy 

The tests are free, quick, and easy. Schools may choose to use either a nasal test or a saliva test.  

  • Does COVID-19 testing cause pain? No. The shallow nasal test is not painful and does not use the longer swab that reaches higher into the nose. The saliva test uses a saliva sample spit into a cup. You can ask your child’s school what method is used for their testing program so you can tell your child what to expect for their test. 
  • How long will it take to get test results? It depends on the test. Diagnostic testing results from rapid antigen tests are available in as little as 15 minutes, while screening testing results may take 24-48 hours. 
  • What if I don’t want my student to participate in testing? Participation is optional. 

What Oregon schools are doing regular testing? 

All Oregon school districts have posted their current COVID-19 safety protocols, which explain how they are following the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance and whether they are participating in these testing programs. You can find links to information for your school district on ODE’s Ready Schools website

If your school or district isn’t participating but you would like them to, please encourage your school to participate in these testing programs. You can also find resources for COVID-19 testing on OHA’s web page about COVID-19 testing in Oregon

The best protection: COVID-19 vaccines 

All three COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection leading to hospitalization. The Pfizer vaccine is available in two forms for children: 

  • Pediatric form for children ages 5 through 11 
  • Adult form for children ages 12 through 17 

If you care for children aged 5 or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon web page to schedule their vaccine appointment today.