WEDNESDAY, Jan. 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) — In an effort to keep children in classrooms, the White House announced Wednesday that 10 million free COVID-19 tests will be provided to schools around the country every month while the wildly contagious omicron variant continues to surge.

President Joe Biden has been pushing for months to have schools stay open because the academic, social, and emotional toll of remote learning has put children at risk for mental health issues.

The new investment is expected to double the number of COVID-19 tests that schools used as of November, the White House said in a statement on the plan.

“The Biden-Harris administration is doubling down on our commitment to keeping all schools safely open for full-time in-person learning by taking new action to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools,” the statement read. “Through these new initiatives, the administration will increase the number of COVID-19 tests available to schools by 10 million per month.”

The administration said it would distribute 5 million free rapid antigen tests to K-12 schools each month, to be used in two types of testing. The first is screening tests, in which a portion of students are tested on a regular basis in hopes of finding those who do not know they are infected. The second is test-to-stay programs that allow students exposed to COVID-19 to stay in school rather than quarantine at home as long as they periodically test negative.

In addition to those 5 million tests, the White House will provide 5 million free polymerase chain reaction tests to schools to perform individual and pooled testing. States will be able to request tests, and the first shipments are expected later this month.

At this point, 96 percent of schools are now open compared with 46 percent in January 2021, the White House added, and the Biden administration wants to keep it that way.

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