Atlanta Public Schools will make COVID-19 surveillance testing mandatory for staff twice per week beginning the week of Sept. 6, as a part of the district’s comprehensive mitigation strategy.

The testing is required for all staff members, even if they are already vaccinated. In the past 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, APS has committed to “implementing comprehensive mitigation strategies to support the health and safety of its staff and students.”

These mitigation strategies and safety protocols include implementing regular COVID-19 surveillance testing at schools and offices, mandating universal mask-wearing, hosting and collaborating in COVID-19 vaccine events, instituting robust cleaning measures, and educating its stakeholders on best practices.

“Surveillance testing will allow us to keep up our momentum of quality, in-person learning and minimize the risk for everyone,” APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said. “Even if you are fully vaccinated, or have no symptoms, you may unknowingly expose others to the COVID-19 virus. Frequent surveillance testing can help protect your students, colleagues, and your loved ones at home. It is the best tool available to detect asymptomatic carriers.”

APS conducted a survey of around 6,000 employees. According to that survey, 81% of employees who responded are fully vaccinated.

Since July 17, 2021, 189 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. The school system said of those staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19, around 50% were vaccinated and 49.7% were not vaccinated.

As of Aug. 3, APS has 20,012 students under age 12 enrolled in its traditional schools.

Even though APS’s employee vaccination number is over 81 percent, the district is seeing low staff participation in weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing. APS schools remain prepared to pivot to a virtual instructional platform should the need arise due to a high number of confirmed cases.

“I want to thank our teachers and all of our employees for all that they are doing to keep our students and their fellow colleagues safe,” Herring said.

“Their commitment to masking up, physical distancing, being vaccinated, and following our safety protocols all make a difference in ensuring our environment is safe. Mandatory twice weekly surveillance testing will now make our school even safer.”

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