One year ago, none of us had a clear vision of what “back to school” would look like come fall 2021 — or if it would even be possible for Delaware’s youth to attend K-12 schools in person. Thankfully, in-person education is back! I commend every Delawarean who has helped to make this possible by staying the course on pandemic safety guidelines and getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
To help keep our children safe and our schools open, Delaware now offers an important COVID-19 testing program. It’s important that all parents are aware of this, know how to access it and participate.
The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) launched an in-school COVID-19 testing program in early July. Since then, nearly 200 school districts, charter and private schools made the commitment to participate and offer free COVID-19 testing on-site. Administered in partnership with the Quidel Corp., the program offers asymptomatic COVID-19 screening for students and faculty at participating locations. If your school has enrolled and you opt in to the program for your child, they will receive free rapid COVID-19 testing — at school, by qualified health care professionals, on a regular basis.
Regular testing remains a very important way to catch COVID-19 cases early and prevent outbreaks. This is especially true right now for school-aged children who are too young to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and may be more likely to get sick, and possibly severely sick, from the virus and emerging variants. Moreover, children could have the virus and not show symptoms — but they could still give COVID-19 to a classmate, sibling or adult and make them sick. It bears repeating: One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is regular testing, coupled with other prevention strategies like wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
However, for in-school COVID-19 screening to be effective in preventing outbreaks and sickness, we need the majority of Delaware schools and unvaccinated students to participate in the program. And that means having every Delaware school offer the service, then getting every parent to make sure their child is authorized to participate. So please, learn more about the program and see a list of schools currently participating at dhsscovidschooltest.com. Then, if your child’s school or district is on the list, contact them to find out how to opt in for screening — and encourage other parents to do the same. And if your school hasn’t signed up to participate yet, ask them to do so.
I believe so strongly in this program’s ability to keep our children and community safer that I urge every adult responsible for a child to opt in to the program as soon as possible. Doing so will help keep our schools open and allow all students to benefit from the education, socialization and opportunities every Delaware child deserves.
Dr. Karyl T. Rattay is the director of the Division of Public Health within the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. She is board-certified in pediatrics and completed her pediatric residency at Georgetown University and a preventive medicine and public health residency training program at the University of Maryland. She earned a medical doctorate from the Medical University of Ohio and a Master of Science in epidemiology from the University of Maryland.