N.J. offers more details of testing of unvaccinated teachers, students

Unvaccinated teachers and staff should be tested at least once a week. Unvaccinated students may not need to be tested in areas of “low” transmission. Vaccinated people do not need to be tested at all. And no student should be tested without having their parent or guardian notified.

Those are just some of the updates as New Jersey officials gave more details regarding COVID-19 testing procedures for school districts this fall.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the program will be paid for with a $267 million federal grant — and that additional funding, if needed, would come out of federal awards, not local school district funding.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the funding will help schools open safely by providing access to testing resources, such as test kits, diagnostic lab services, personal protective equipment and full testing services.

Districts, which have to apply for funding, can choose to use one of several state-designated vendors to qualify for the funding, or they can receive funding for testing programs that the districts already have in place, Persichilli said.

Persichilli said school administrators were advised in July that they must develop a testing plan in consultation with their local health department and based on the testing guidelines that the state Department of Health issued in August.

Here is more of how Persichilli described the program Wednesday during a COVID-19 briefing:

  • Vaccination rates: Currently, 55% of children ages 12-17 have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 44% are fully vaccinated. Those that are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in routine screening testing, Perschilli said.
  • Student testing, part I: Schools should have a procedure in place to obtain parental consent for minor students. School-based testing should never be conducted without consent from a parent or legal guardian, Persichilli said.
  • Student testing, part II: Student screening may not be necessary in areas of “low” transmission, but in regions with “moderate,” “high” or “very high” virus activity. Screening testing of students who are not fully vaccinated, or random samples of 10% of students, should be completed at least once a week.
  • Teacher testing: Screening testing of teachers and staff across all levels who are not fully vaccinated should be at least once a week.
  • Positive results: Individuals who test positive should be immediately excluded from school and school-based close contacts should be identified and excluded from school for 10 days in regions with “low” or “moderate” risk or 14 days in regions with “high” or “very high” risk. Anyone who tests positive by rapid antigen test and is asymptomatic should be additionally referred for confirmatory testing by PCR test within two days of the initial test. Asymptomatic exposed close contacts who are fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine, and they should just be tested three to five days following the exposure.