CDPHE launches program to place rapid COVID-19 tests in schools;

State also offers school masks to reduce risk to teachers and students

REMOTE, (Jan. 6, 2020): As part of ongoing efforts to keep in-person learning as safe as possible, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has developed a new at-home COVID-19 testing program for teachers, staff, and selected students at participating schools. The program is intended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools by allowing symptomatic and exposed individuals to get tested quickly and easily. If teachers or students are symptomatic, they should stay home. The program is also designed to facilitate more regular testing, especially for teachers and staff who are frequently in close contact with others as part of their jobs.

Colorado is one of three states with early access to the home-use BinaxNOW program. CDPHE has contracted with a digital health provider, eMed, to provide BinaxNOW home test kits for use via a virtually guided telehealth session. At-home testing reduces the staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and reporting burden on school health officials and is more convenient for educators and students. Results are available within 15 minutes of collecting a nasal swab sample. Individuals age 15 and older may collect their own samples with assistance from the eMed proctor, while children age 4-14 may have samples collected by an adult.

Teachers, staff, and selected students at participating schools and their parents or guardians will be able to use a web portal to order tests, which will then be shipped directly to their home. Testing will be conducted via a telehealth remote proctor session and the proctor will report the results to local public health and CDPHE. Additionally, CDPHE will make kits available for school distribution.

CDPHE is working to make home BinaxNOW tests available through the end of this school year to all districts and private schools that opt into the program. Public school district leaders and leaders from charter, private, and parochial schools who are interested in participating should complete a short survey regarding their testing plans. Interested districts and independent schools should submit only one response each. This data is essential to the state‚Äôs planning strategies and will enable us to obtain and distribute resources as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Additionally, the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center continues the distribution of masks for teachers at public, charter, and private schools through the end of the 2020-21 school year. To date, the state has distributed 2,440,750 KN95 masks to schools. Districts, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), charters, public schools, and facility schools will be given the opportunity to receive a combination of KN95 masks and surgical masks. Information on how districts can opt in will be coming soon from Colorado Department of Education.