By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — California school districts and childcare centers could be required to develop a COVID-19 testing plan under a new proposal introduced Tuesday.
Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, unveiled new legislation that would require K-12 schools, pre-schools, childcare centers and after-school programs to create a COVID-19 testing plan. The bill would also ensure that resources and funds are available for schools to implement their testing plans.
Sen. Pan said Tuesday that his legislation would help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools by identifying positive cases and quarantining students quickly, which he says will allow schools to remain open and safe for students.
“Helping protect vulnerable students and staff by reducing exposure to COVID is essential to be able to keep our schools open,” Sen. Pan said during a news conference Tuesday. “Without a testing plan, schools risk high numbers of teachers becoming positive and having to close school because of staffing shortages, as well as, of course, students not attending school because of fears of parents.”
Sen. Pan’s bill does not dictate how often students would have to be tested or how they are tested — whether it’s with a PCR or rapid test. The bill simply requires schools to develop some form of testing plan.
If the bill is passed, Sen. Pan said the California Department of Public Health will provide guidance to schools about what their plans should include and how they should be implemented. The law would also require schools to report information on its COVID-19 testing program to CDPH. The bill appears to exclude private schools.
Sen. Pan’s office did not have an estimate Tuesday on how much funding would be needed to provide testing resources for schools, noting that it is still collecting information on how much the state has dispensed for school testing from existing federal and state funds. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allows federal funds to be spent on COVID-19 testing at schools.
Though schools are not currently under a statewide requirement to test students throughout the pandemic, several school districts across the state implemented testing programs.
Sen. Pan’s bill is the latest to come out of a Legislative Vaccine Work Group, which has proposed several measures to increase vaccination rates and slow the spread of COVID-19. Thus far, the group has introduced multiple bills, including a proposal to require California workers to be fully vaccinated and a bill that would allow kids 12 and older to get the vaccine without parental consent.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.