Updated at 12:35 p.m. Thursday — As public schools in Napa and American Canyon prepare to reopen after a three-week holiday break, school district staff will provide at-home coronavirus testing kits to students from Thursday to Saturday.
The Napa Valley Unified School District will provide the test kits at drive-up stations outside Napa and American Canyon high schools, the district announced on its website. The state-supplied iHealth-branded kits, which allow a test to be conducted in about 15 minutes, are being provided amid a surge of COVID-19 cases that began picking up speed in December with the spread of the virus’ more contagious Omicron variant.
One kit will be provided for each student, and kits will be available only for NVUSD students. While families are strongly encouraged to pick up test kits, testing is not required for students to return to schools, which have been closed since Dec. 20 and are slated to reopen Monday.
Drive-up distribution will take place at Napa High, 2475 Jefferson St., and American Canyon High, 3000 Newell Drive, at the following times:
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Thursday: noon to 3 p.m.
Friday: noon to 3 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to noon
District staff members will bring the kits to visitors’ vehicles. Families are asked to print and fill out a placard, available online at nvusd.org/covidinfo, and place the placard on their dashboards while driving up to a distribution site.
NVUSD, which teaches some 16,600 children and teenagers, currently provides weekly COVID-19 tests for students who sign up for the service at each school. Results of the weekly tests typically take several days to process.
COVID-19 testing kits also were to be distributed this week to students in Calistoga and St. Helena, the Napa County Office of Education announced.
Pickups took place Thursday morning at Calistoga Elementary, and will continue at Calistoga Junior/Senior High School from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Friday. In St. Helena, Vintage Hall will host test distributions Thursday from 2:30 to 5:15 p.m.
Kits already have been provided to students at the smaller Howell Mountain and Pope Valley elementary schools, according to Seana Wagner, spokesperson for the Office of Education, which received more than 19,000 kits from the state to pass on to public school districts in the county.
Napa County's latest update nearly matched the 259 new COVID-19 cases it reported for the New Year's holiday weekend.
The Napa County distribution is a part of California’s effort to supply every K-12 public school student with an at-home test kit before the reopening of classrooms this month. However, parents in some parts of the state are still waiting on tests.
On Monday, the state Department of Public Health confirmed that California had delivered 3 million tests to counties for distribution, and another million were en route. Those were in addition to 2 million at-home tests sent to 3,000 school districts earlier in December.
Ali Bay, a spokesperson for the department, said millions of tests have already been delivered to California families, but many others were delayed by recent storms.
The Sacramento County Office of Education, which oversees all school districts in the county, didn't receive its full shipment of tests until Monday, and Superintendent Dave Gordon said the office didn't have a timeline of when the test kits would make it to families.
“We have 10,000 schools in the state so it’s a daunting task, but we’ve got to find ways to make it happen in a more accelerated way," Tony Thurmond, the state schools superintendent, told reporters Wednesday, calling the delays “disappointing.”
“Too many California kids went back to school this week without knowing whether they’re spreading the highly contagious Omicron variant,” the Los Angeles Times said in an editorial published Tuesday.
Dr. Karen Relucio, Napa County public health officer, answered questions on the latest COVID-19 surge.
While Napa and Sacramento’s school systems are not mandating testing before students return to campuses, other districts are requiring proof of a negative test to return.
Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in the state with 600,000 students and 1,000 schools, will require all students and employees to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to come onto campus when classes resume Tuesday. The district is providing tests to students this week.
Los Angeles schools will also continue weekly testing for all students and employees throughout the month of January. The district requires masks at all times both indoors and outside, and a health screening is required for all campus visitors, according to district guidance.
Superintendent Gordon said keeping teachers and staff healthy is another priority heading into the new year.
After three semesters of pandemic learning, educators are already struggling with burnout and low staffing numbers that could worsen in the event of breakthrough infections.
“That's the real potential pain point,” Gordon said. “We've already been short of staff in the form of substitute teachers and support people. So we just have to do whatever we can do. If need be, encourage people to come back, maybe retired staff.”
NVUSD’s information on COVID-19 positive tests in the final week before its holiday recess remained pending as of Wednesday, according to district spokesperson Cass Caulfield. The most recent district update of 19 positives for the week of Dec. 6 – including 16 students and three employees – predated Napa County’s end-of-year surge in confirmed positive tests, which reached 259 for the New Year’s weekend and 239 on Wednesday.
For more information, visit the NVUSD website at nvusd.org/covidinfo.
With reports from Register reporter Howard Yune, the Sacramento Bee, and The Associated Press.
This story has been updated since the original posting to include information about test kit distribution to students in St. Helena and Calistoga.
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