Testing Still An Issue As Surge Intensifies

Teachers and some parents in Chicago feel uneasy about schools restarting.
Posted at 9:14 PM, Dec 30, 2021

With the Omicron variant now dominant in the U.S., COVID cases are skyrocketing to record highs. 

The latest data from the CDC shows our current seven-day average of new cases is more than 277,000.

That's nearly 60,000 cases higher than the peak of last winter's surge. 

On a more positive note, the seven-day average of people dying from COVID in the U.S. has dropped in the past week. 

That could be a result of Omicron being less severe. 

Meanwhile, the number of children hospitalized with COVID is surging, with experts blaming lagging vaccination rates among youngsters.  

"When we see children hospitalized because of COVID, they are all unvaccinated," Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said. "Parents are unvaccinated. Siblings are unvaccinated." 

In Chicago, a plan to distribute 150,000 PCR COVID tests to public school students backfired after photos of overflowing drop boxes circulated online.   

"The tests are supposed to be at room temperature and it was pretty cold in Chicago while those were out on the sidewalk," Halle Quezada, Chicago Public Schools mother and teacher, said. "I think the problem is when we don't have a clear picture of what spread looks like in schools, that we're not able to take appropriate steps to protect the people who are in school buildings."

Families were "strongly encouraged" to test children at home and drop the sample at their nearest Fed-Ex drop box so results could be processed before the end of winter break. 

But now, the teachers' union and some parents say they feel uneasy about restarting school in-person on Monday without stronger testing protocols.  

"My husband was vaccinated and he got COVID and ended up hospitalized, and it was wildly traumatizing experience for all of us, even though he survived," Quezada said. "So I'm not looking for any of my students' families to endure that, and I don't want my family to endure it again."

Chicago Public Schools defended its plan, but still, the chaos around the testing program illustrates how hard it is for Americans of all ages to get tested and know whether or not they might be infectious.