Weekly COVID-19 testing now recommended for all unvaccinated Philadelphia students

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There’s new guidance from the city on testing for COVID-19 in schools.

The school district this fall has been testing only students who showed symptoms, but the Department of Public Health is now recommending that unvaccinated schoolchildren be screened weekly.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, in a media briefing Wednesday, said the city’s recommendation for screening students is consistent with CDC guidance, where community transmission is at moderate, substantial or high levels — as is the case in Philadelphia.

The city is also easing its rules on whether classroom instruction should go virtual, and when, because of positive COVID-19 test results.

Dr. Bettigole said if more than 3% of a school’s population tests positive, the school should discuss with the health department about pausing in-person learning. Before, just six positive tests triggered an automatic pause.

"Today’s announcement around testing from Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) Acting Commissioner Bettigole is a recommendation consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance," said district spokeswoman Monica Lewis in a statement.

"Since the very start of the pandemic, the School District of Philadelphia has worked closely with public health experts from PDPH and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to implement extensive health and safety measures in every school to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, as science has shown, COVID-19 vaccinations work to mitigate the spread of the virus. That's why we continue to encourage anyone who is eligible to be vaccinated to do so."

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