With newfound concern of rising COVID-19 cases heading into the new year, Chicago Public Schools issued a message to families Sunday, encouraging students take a COVID test before classes resume.
The district’s 330,000 students started their two-week winter break Monday as the Omicron variant continued to take hold in the city and the rest of the country.
In Sunday's email, CPS said to "please strongly consider getting your child tested for COVID-19 before they return to school on Monday, January 3. This is extremely important, especially if your family has traveled or if your child is feeling sick."
The district recommends students get tested on Tuesday, Dec. 28 so families can receive results before classes resume. A list of pediatric testing sites is available on the CPS website.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said earlier this week that officials “know that there’s going to be cases rising” over the next few weeks and predicted a “sustained period of time, at least during January, of higher cases.”
More than 1,300 students and 790 adults reported positive tests last week, nearly tripling the previous week’s totals, which had been the school year’s highest to date. Case reporting has plummeted during winter as students and staff head home.
Officials announced last week they would distribute 150,000 at-home tests to CPS students at 309 schools in the communities with the lowest vaccination rates and highest number of cases. Those tests should be used Dec. 28 for results before classes resume Jan. 3, and dropped off at a community FedEx site that can be found at color.com/fedex-dropbox.
A weekly supply of 10,000 at-home tests was expected to be secured by mid-January and given to students in quarantine because of in-school exposure, Martinez said. The Chicago Teachers Union had called for that testing plan to be expanded into the new year.
The district has also urged its students and parents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and for those eligible to receive their boosters. Those shots remain the best protection against the virus, with boosters in particular offering protection against Omicron. Martinez said shots would bring “stability in our classrooms. Short of that, we’re going to have to take more conservative approaches.”