The federal program will send a total of 5 million rapid tests this month to states that submit requests. (Getty Images)
New Hampshire will apply to a federal program intended to boost the number of COVID-19 tests available to schools, Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday, a week after school superintendents said testing quantities continue to be a challenge.
Responding to a question at his weekly press conference, Sununu said the state would “absolutely” be applying for the new program, which was announced by the White House Wednesday morning.
“Any program where the tests are made available, they release a big chunk of tests – we always try to be first in line to apply for those,” Sununu said.
The federal program will send a total of 5 million rapid tests this month to states that submit requests “to help K-12 schools stay open and to implement and sustain screening testing and test to stay programs,” the announcement stated.
The White House hopes to continue sending 10 million COVID-19 tests per month to schools across the country, officials said.
It is not clear what New Hampshire’s allotment of tests will be, or how much the new allotment will improve testing availability in its schools. During a monthly call with state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut on Jan. 3, a number of school superintendents said their schools were struggling to obtain enough tests to keep children in schools.
Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended schools adopt an approach called “test to stay,” where students who may have been exposed to COVID-19 can continue coming to school if they consistently test negative. That strategy is intended to reduce the number of students who must quarantine at home and ease the burden on parents. But New Hampshire superintendents have said that without a steady supply of tests, most lack the resources to fully implement the “test to stay” model.
Currently, New Hampshire schools have access to four separate state and federal programs to access tests. But many of those programs cap the number of tests that are available to individual schools. One program, which distributes rapid tests, limits schools to 120 tests per month. Another, the Say Yes! COVID Test program, caps the tests at 90.
A separate, opt-in program, the Safer at School screening program, distributes tests based on need, according to the Department of Education.
In his response to superintendents last week, Edelblut said the department would attempt to locate more tests for school districts. But speaking Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette argued that the shortage is not widespread.
“If there’s any school that needs at-home testing, they need to contact the department so we can get them some at-home tests,” Shibinette said. “We’re not aware that there is a shortage of them for the school system.”
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.