BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As COVID cases are trending downward in Jefferson County, mitigation efforts are in full swing inside Birmingham City Schools.
All districts will begin participating in a weekly, voluntary COVID testing initiative. It’s free, only takes one minute, and results are available within 24 hours. The goal of the initiative is to help identify asymptomatic COVID cases in an effort to keep students in the classroom.
At Robinson Elementary School, 82 students and 6 staff members have signed up to participate in the voluntary testing on Wednesday.
“It has worked. Last week we had zero.. zero cases here at Robinson Elementary School, and I think that tells our parents that it is safe to come back to school. We have some work to do and we need our students here learning traditionally,” said Marcia Henderson, principal of Robinson Elementary School.
District-wide there are around 1,300 students, faculty, and staff participating in the weekly testing. So far there have been three positive asymptomatic cases.
“It is paramount that people continue to follow the guidance of the CDC, particularly if they are unvaccinated, and to test those asymptomatic people who may be spreading COVID to others and may not know it. They may spread it to multiple people, then one person may get sick or multiple people may get sick and that person might not even know that, so, this is going to really help mitigate the spread of the disease,” said superintendent Dr. Sullivan with Birmingham City Schools.
The program is a partnership with UAB School of Public Health, the Alabama Department of Public Health, and the Alabama State Department of Education to provide the service to Birmingham City Schools.
“They work with each school that chooses to participate to develop an individualized plan that best fits the needs of that school to minimize any disruption to the learning environment and other activities that go on in the school. The screening takes about one minute, it feels like a tickle in the nose, we’re told and results are available within 24 hours,” said Dr. Martha Wingate, UAB School of Public Health.
If parents are interested in their child participating in the testing, they can fill out a consent form with their district or school nurse. The voluntary COVID screening program is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Administrators tell us they will continue testing throughout the school year.