Gov. Whitmer announces pilot COVID-19 test program for schools

The pilot program will provide at-home COVID-19 tests through participating schools
FILE - In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer...
FILE - In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her virtual State of the State address the state, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021 in Lansing, Mich. Whitmer on Wednesday, Sept. 29 will deem some Republican-backed budget provisions unconstitutional attempts to restrict COVID-19 public health measures but allow language limiting potential state and municipal vaccination requirements. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, File)(AP)
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:49 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced today a pilot program that would provide free, at-home Covid-19 tests for parents and children through schools.

The pilot program, called MI Backpack Home Tests, is in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). It will provide free, at-home COVID antigen tests to participating schools. The press release said the goal is to create a safer environment for K-12 students, parents, teachers, and support staff amid the pandemic.

“We must use every tool in our toolbox to keep kids safe and ensure that they can continue learning in person this school year, said Governor Whitmer. “With the MI Backpack Home Tests program, we can help protect students, parents, teachers, and school staff by providing free tests directly to Michigan families. While these tests will help keep people safe, the best thing anyone can do to protect themselves and ensure safe, in-person learning, is to get vaccinated. I urge all parents to take their children ages 5 and up to get a safe, effective vaccine.”

The MI Backpack Home Tests initiative will start this week in Charlotte Public Schools. Through the voluntary program, parents, students, and staff can sign up to take home COVID-19 test kits. Every person enrolled in the program will receive one at-home COVID-19 test kit that includes two tests. MDHHS will provide the kits and educational materials and schools will distribute the kits to participants.

“This pilot offers one more tool to keep our school communities safe,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. “Along with the safe and effective vaccine, in-school testing, mask-wearing, ventilation, social distancing and handwashing, take-home testing allows schools to educate our children safely during the pandemic.”

The MI Backpack Home Tests program expands on the MI Safe School Testing Program launched by MDHHS in January 2021.

“MDHHS is committed to looking for innovative ways to protect the public health during this pandemic,” said Dr. Alexis Travis, senior deputy director for the MDHHS Public Health Administration. “The MI Backpack Home Tests program is another tool we can use to combat COVID-19.”

During the first week of the pilot, schools will send information to parents and staff and collect registration forms from those who chose to participate. MDHHS will ship kits to schools to distribute to participating students and staff next week. Once they have their test kits, participants can use the kits at home if someone has symptoms or exposure to someone else with COVID-19.

Additional school districts – including Benton Harbor Area Schools and Battle Creek Public Schools which have already signed up – will be added into the pilot program in later weeks and receive their test kits after the Thanksgiving break. MDHHS said it is inviting a geographically diverse group of schools to participate in the pilot so that its effectiveness can be gauged around the state.

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