With free weekly COVID testing for schools available, only half of Acadiana parishes opt in

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(KLFY) Weekly COVID-19 testing is now available free of charge for students, teachers, and school staff in Acadiana.

Only half of the parishes however have opted for the testing in their schools.

The free testing was made possible because the CDC recently gave Louisiana a $140 million grant.

The money is for free COVID-19 testing in schools every week, and the purpose is to keep kids in school.

Not all of the parishes have to opt in for this testing.

“It’s an optional program that every school, every student, every faculty member, every school board member, every school bus driver can participate in,” Rachael Slaughter said.

Rachael Slaughter is the President of Orion Laboratories, the lab the Louisiana Department of Health hired to do the testing at schools in Acadiana.

She says right now only the St. Martin, St. Landry, and Evangeline Parish school systems have opted in for the free weekly tests.

“Teachers are happy. Parents are happy. Kids are in school. Over the past seven weeks, it’s really shown that the program is successful,” she said.

She says Lafayette, Acadia, Vermillion, and Iberia Parish have not opted into the program.

“We want parents to know that your child could be tested every week if you want them to for free. You don’t have to go to a doctor, get an order, and pay $100 for a test. This is a free program,” Slaughter added.

She says for the three parishes that are doing the testing, their students, teachers, and staff take a ten-second swab every week.

They use a PCR test, instead of a rapid test, to catch COVID-19 in schools before it spreads.

“If you do a rapid test, typically you already have symptoms, and he kids are already into everything. They already have a runny nose or cough and five to ten kids may already have it at that time. If you use PCR, you can catch them before they’re symptomatic, which is the goal, right?” she asked.

Slaughter adds the main purpose of this weekly testing is to keep students and staff out of quarantine and in school. She says so far, the testing is working.

As of the latest LDH report, Lafayette Parish had 59 COVID-19 cases in their 46 schools.

The same week, the 182 schools who do the free weekly testing only had 27 cases overall, Slaughter said.

“This is a safe program that is already at the school so they can test every week if they want. They can opt out. They can do it every other week. They can wait until they have symptoms if they want, however, the best way to do it is consistent testing every week,” she said.

LDH is also offering an incentive for school districts to opt into the testing.

If a student or faculty member signs up for the program, they get $25 initially and an additional $10 for ever test they take after that.

Slaughter says if you’re a concerned parent and want the program at your child’s school, she advises to contact the school board where you live.

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