Gov. Brad Little and state officials are beginning to distribute the first shipment of thousands of new rapid coronavirus tests for teachers and public school staff across Idaho.
Speaking during a Thursday news conference at the Statehouse, Little said the Trump administration is making 100 million rapid antigen tests available to governors.
Little said he is prioritizing using these to test for coronavirus in schools.
“This will be a game-changer for schools,” Little said. “The new rapid tests will quickly determine who has and who does not have COVID-19 so teachers and students can be back in their classrooms instead of quarantining.”
The first shipment of 35,000 rapid tests arrived in Idaho Thursday and is being sent to public health districts to distribute to schools, Little said. Public health officials, who are already advising schools on their risk classifications, will work with schools to distribute the tests.
Over the next three months, Little expects to distribute 530,000 more tests.
Little said the tests are more than 95 percent accurate, give results in 15 minutes and involve a less invasive nasal swab than earlier tests.
State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said testing would be prioritized for teachers and staff members.
“We want to make sure we keep those schools open and they can’t operate if their teachers aren’t there or the staff isn’t there,” Hahn said.
She hopes the tests will reach schools as soon as next week, but Hahn added there will be some training necessary before testing begins.
Since the first schools reopened in August, hundreds of students or staff members have been quarantined. Some schools and districts have experienced closures, high absenteeism rates or implemented hybrid or online learning models.
On the other hand, some schools and districts, including Boise, continue to advance through in-person reopening plans.
“Testing will continue to be an important piece of battling coronavirus and getting our lives closer to normal,” Little said.
Idaho’s public schools serve about 312,000 students and has about 20,000 teachers.