RHS staff should have been tested before returning to school

Sending teachers back to school without being tested endangers everyone involved

“Rotting Apple” by Jenny Le.

Via Godinez, Opinion Editor

I’m sure we can all agree that COVID-19 hasn’t made life easy for anyone. The decision to send students and staff back to school “brick and mortar” wasn’t easy to make, but the school district did their best to make the environment as safe as possible.

So…why didn’t they require COVID tests for returning staff?

COVID testing opportunities have decreased as the pandemic has prolonged – due to testing costs and lack of testing materials – as testing sites are trying to make testing most available to those at high risk. To make a safe back-to-school environment and reduce the spread of the virus, Hillsborough County has partnered with Tampa General Hospital for free rapid testing for any employee with Humana insurance – as long as they want to get tested. 

My question is, if you’re going to make testing available, why not make it a requirement to return to on-campus schooling? 

“Through the first of its kind partnership with Tampa General Hospital, our employees will now have access to COVID-19 expedited testing to ensure they have the information they need, faster, should they come into contact with a potential carrier of the virus or display symptoms,” said Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis in a press release. “We have a responsibility to provide a safe back to school experience for our staff while reducing the spread of this challenging virus, and this opportunity ultimately provides a step towards normalcy for the Tampa Bay area.” 

If HCPS were really concerned with “providing a safe back to school experience” and “reducing the spread of the virus,” they would have made getting a COVID test through their partnership with TGH a requirement for staff to return to campus. 

I would argue that they make testing a requirement for students wanting to return to on-campus learning; however, testing for minors is increasingly tricky, seeing that most testing sites refuse to test minors, even with parental permission. This is especially problematic because many testing sites require one to show symptoms to get tested, and according to the Bruno Kessler Foundation, a research institute in Trento, Italy, 80% of people under 20 are likely to not show any symptoms after contracting COVID-19.

Places like CVS and Walgreens did not allow testing of persons under 18 years old and had given little information on why. Only recently, CVS began testing minors with parent permission and following symptom guidelines.

“COVID-19 testing is available to eligible individuals meeting centers for disease control and prevention and state-specific criteria, in addition to age guidelines,” CVS previously said in a public statement.

Hillsborough County testing sites do not have age restrictions, but do require that a parent/guardian accompanies the minor and that the child displays symptoms.

Staff should be tested every two weeks, seeing that’s roughly how long it takes for symptoms to appear. If students can’t get tested, staff should, at the very least. 

The COVID-19 crisis has caused problems for everyone, and of course, testing everyone is easier said than done. However, we should be doing more to keep everyone safe.