August 10, 2021

Why some schools are mandating Covid tests while others aren’t

Community infection rates are a big factor in schools’ Covid safety plans.

As students in California prepare to return to in-person instruction, schools are piecing together Covid testing and vaccination measures that are as varied as the state itself.

The state is urging schools to test students and staff regularly and encourage everyone on campus who’s eligible to get vaccinated. But neither vaccinations nor testing is required, and schools have flexibility as to how they implement measures to prevent Covid outbreaks.

The result is a patchwork of safety plans that are likely to change as conditions evolve. Los Angeles Unified, for example, is testing all students and staff weekly, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated. San Francisco Unified, meanwhile, is recommending that students and staff get tested if they have symptoms, but is not requiring tests.

The rapidly changing safety plans come amid a surge of Covid cases linked to the delta variant, a dramatically more transmissible strain of the original coronavirus that’s now dominant in California. Over the past month, new Covid infections in California grew by more than 400%, with young people leading the surge, according to the California Department of Public Health.

As a result, many California counties have reinstituted indoor mask mandates, even for people who are vaccinated.

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