Should Covid Testing be Required in Schools?

Journalism Class

With a rise in Omicron cases across the community and in the school, school events and activities are being shut down left and right. All of this stems from not being able to prevent Covid from getting into the school but there is one way 

how could you do that, mandatory covid testing. But while some may see it as a good counter to the recent spike in cases there would be issues in implementing this policy and enforcing it.

With several staff and student shortages at schools and school districts like Franklin High School, Salem Keizer school district, and the north clackamas school district because of the spike in omicron cases, schools are having to go back online because they simply cannot stay open. Mandatory covid testing could be a solution because they would ensure that people who test positive for covid could not come to school and unknowingly spread the virus. But the issues implementing and enforcing the policy could pose challenges. 

For starters the shortage in covid tests currently makes testing on this massive of a scale impossible. Another problem with the method is the purpose of tests not being implemented correctly. The rapid tests will not pick up on Covid in asymptomatic people or people who are not showing symptoms which would mean wasting tests and still letting Covid spread in the school. “…accuracy was lower (sensitivity 41.2% and specificity 98.4%) when used for screening of asymptomatic persons,” said the CDC. This is one of the qualities of COVID-19 that made it so easy to spread in the first place because you don’t know you have it and you are shedding virus. 

Also COVID-19 PCR tests are not 100% reliable as well because being harder to find and taking longer than rapid tests the wait to get them would cause issues. 

Expert Infectious Disease Specialist Wendi Drummond who works at Providence health in downtown Portland explained in her opinion that  PCR tests are also not a reliable option for weekly testing because the PCR test picks up the virus in strands of your DNA which means that you could not even be spreading covid because you had it within 90 days ago and you would test positive on these tests. 

This would mean that the testing would be feeding inaccurate information to case counts and keep people who can come to school in person at home. 

Enforcing the policy could find issues as well as people could take a picture off the internet or find a way to falsify the results of the test to come into school. With this policy in place people who cannot find tests cannot come to school even if they didn’t have covid which could be keeping healthy students home and letting sick students come to school which is the opposite aim of the policy. 

In the end even though some people think that making a pre-emptive strike on the virus to keep it out of school could be effective, it creates too many issues implementing and enforcing the policy.