Chicago Public Schools distributes COVID testing kits ahead of winter break as cases rise

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said Thursday he is concerned about the rise in COVID cases in the city. In response, the district is implementing a new testing plan.

While passing out a gifts to every student at a toy giveaway at Mays Elementary School in Englewood, Martinez said he is very concerned about COVID cases when students return from winter break.

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"We are seeing cases rise now, I'm already seeing a few schools where several classes go remote and it tends to be in neighborhoods where we have low vaccination rates," Martinez said. "It's the neighborhoods we are sending home tests."

CPS is sending home 150,000 home test kits to students in schools located in neighborhoods with high COVID cases and low vaccination rates.

All students sent home with a COVID test must take it on Dec. 28. Families are required to drop the test off on the same day at a FedEx box, which Martinez admits may be difficult to find.

Martinez said CPS plans to announce more convenient drop-off locations next week.

"The goal is to get those tests in by Friday, so that we will know of any positive cases, so that will allow us to come back on the 3rd as safe as possible," he explained.

CPS hopes testing and encouraging more parents to get their kids vaccinated will keep schools safe. But some community activists and Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez are calling on CPS to do more to get vaccines into the schools directly

"We demand CPS take this seriously, three-quarters of kids are not vaccinated yet, with a variant that is so aggressive," Sigcho-Lopez said.

While the new omicron variant is expected to result in a January surge and may force some classes in to quarantine, Martinez does not expect the district to return to all remote.

Families that do not get take-home tests are encouraged to test students over winter break, with opportunities available at cps.edu/youthcovidtesting.
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