DENVER – Since last Fall, the Polis administration has provided over 230,000 PCR tests to teachers and the education community through its vendor COVIDCheck Colorado As of January 28th, the state has funded more than 70 COVIDCheck Colorado testing locations throughout the state. The Polis administration has also provided over seven million medical-grade masks to teachers in both private and public schools delivered weekly to schools throughout the state, and this is scheduled to continue for the remainder of the school year. The Polis administration has also sent over $15 million in grants to school districts and schools throughout the state for additional measures to increase COVID safety protocols such as outdoor classrooms and ventilation improvements.
Next week, the State of Colorado will launch a first of its kind, innovative At-Home Testing Program for educators. Colorado is one of only three states chosen to partner to expand use of rapid testing to further opening of our economy and suppress the virus. While Colorado is one of three states chosen to expand use of Abbot BinaxNOW, our talented team at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) innovated further by forging a partnership with Amazon and eMed, one of the nation’s leading digital health providers, to bring testing to the comfort of educators’ homes with a medical professional present through a telehealth appointment. Colorado purchased 2 million BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test kits, which will be delivered directly to the homes of teachers, staff, and selected students from hundreds of participating public and private schools across the state.
Developed by Abbott, the BinaxNOW test recently received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used with telehealth guidance for self-collection in individuals age 15 and older and for adult collection in children age 4-14 years. CDPHE purchased the first 2 million test kits for schools for use in the first month. Subsequent months will either be purchased through a cost-share agreement between schools and the state or may be reimbursed by the federal government.
“In-person learning is critical for the health, safety, and well-being of students and the whole family. We know that remote learning is really hurting the participation of women in the workplace, juvenile mental health, childhood hunger, and loss of learning for our students,” said Governor Jared Polis. “That’s why since last Fall when students started returning to school, my administration has spared no expense to implement a highly effective layered approach to safety.”
The FDA has approved and CDPHE recommends that BinaxNOW tests be administered every five days, which is six times each month when used for ongoing screening. The recurring frequency of testing increases the likelihood of accurately identifying COVID-19.
Schools and school districts received a letter this month with a request for their interest in participating in the program. To date, more than 250 schools and school districts across the state have requested test kits. The first kits launched today and shipments will continue over the coming weeks and months.
The state is working to make home BinaxNOW tests available through the end of this school year to all districts and private schools that opt into the program. BinaxNOW testing is one important part of the layered school safety protocols also including mask-wearing, symptom screening, ventilation, cohort isolation, quarantine enforcement, and social distancing. These layered precautions are detailed in the State’s Roadmap to In-Person Learning, developed in partnership with the Back-to-School Working Group, a group of educators, parents, and public health professionals focused on getting the state back to in-person learning as soon as safely possible.
The Colorado State Emergency Operations Center will continue the distribution of masks for teachers at public, charter, and private schools through the end of the 2020-21 school year. To date, the state has distributed 7 million masks to schools.