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Now is the time to use at-home COVID-19 tests before school starts

SDUSD distributed testing kits to students before winter break. They say the first test should be taken New Year's Eve and the second taken on Monday before school.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The San Diego Unified School District is asking parents to test their kids, using the testing kits sent home, starting on New Year's Eve.

"Go ahead and do that first test today, and then test again on Monday morning right before your kids go to school," said Richard Barrera, SDSU Board Trustee. 

Before winter break, SDUSD sent students home with two at-home testing kits, in the hopes of catching any infections before students get back together on campus. 

The California Department of Public Health made the tests available to schools districts around the state.

"We knew during the holidays, people were going to be in situations that might expose them to the virus," said Barrera. "We wanted to make sure that we were able to test as many of our students before they came back to school as possible."

While a negative result will give your kids the green-light for in-person classes next week, it may also give your whole family at home a sigh of relief.

"In that specific scenario where nobody has left the house for ten days, nobody has symptoms, and you kids take an antigen test and it comes back negative, I think that’s pretty reasonable to rely on that [for the family]," said Dr. Rebecca Fielding-Miller, Assistant Professor at UCSD's School of Public Health.

Fielding-Miller researches COVID prevention in schools. She says if your bubble has been airtight, a negative result can be a weight lifted for the whole family. But it's no replacement for your own test, especially as kids come back to school.

"Of course, parents should get their kids tested. I think it’s amazing that San Diego Unified made rapid tests available," she added.

Fielding-Miller, and other COVID experts, expect a spike in positive cases next week, which she says we can fight starting tonight.

"Collectively, one of the things we can all do to keep schools open and functioning next week is to stay home tonight," she added.

Once schools begin the new semester, Fielding-Miller says it will all be about those prevention efforts we've come to know so well.

"Fresh air, fresh air, fresh air, good masks," she said. "One of the best things schools can do to keep kids safe is open the windows and enforce masking, really."

And, get tested after one last holiday celebration for the year.

"If you do your part to contain this virus-- it’s the best way to keep our students, keep our staff safe and healthy at school, and it’s the best way to keep our schools open," Barrera added.

Barrera says there could be more at-home testing kit distributions in the future, as Governor Gavin Newsom and the White House push for at-home testing production and distribution to increase.

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