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Pennsylvania To Offer Weekly COVID-19 Testing For Schools

Virus Outbreak School Masks coronavirus education students classroom
Chris O'Meara
In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 file photo, Students wearing protective masks walk past a "Welcome Back" sign before the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview, Fla.

Pennsylvania will offer voluntary COVID-19 testing in all K-12 schools, state health and education officials announced Monday.

School districts will have to opt in, and parents must give consent.

For participating school districts, the weekly tests will be conducted in classrooms. Students' nasal swabs will be pooled and run as a single test to identify the presence of COVID-19 in a school.

Boston-based Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks, which operates statewide programs in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, North Carolina and other states, was awarded an $87 million contract to run Pennsylvania's program for the upcoming school year.

“Early detection like this is exactly what we need to keep students in classrooms, and COVID out,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said at a news conference.

Separately, Beam also ordered vaccine providers to coordinate vaccine clinics at schools and universities that request them.