School systems across Maryland and D.C. are requiring students to provide a negative COVID-19 test before they can return to class after spring break.
In Montgomery County, families are being asked to test all students using rapid tests provided by Montgomery County Public Schools and report positive cases to MCPS online.
If the test is positive, the student will be asked to stay home and follow quarantine and isolation guidelines.
Prince George's County Public Schools is also asking students to test before returning to the classroom.
The move is fueled by concern about the Omicron variants. However, Montgomery County Assistant Operating Officer Dr. Earl Stoddard says unlike 2020 and 2021, having students able to take rapid tests is a powerful tool in keeping schools safe and open.
"Obviously they have provided a significant amount of rapid tests home to people, so the thought process is we’re obviously encouraging people who traveled to take one of those rapid tests with their children as they get back and obviously do that before they send their student back to school," Dr. Stoddard says.
DC Public Schools say students who haven't submitted tests will be tested outside buildings before the school day.
Virginia is not requiring students to show a negative COVID-19 test. Dr. Jeffery Gold of the University of Nebraska tells FOX 5 that keeping schools open post-spring break may rely on accurate testing.
"With every one of these variants, there are unknowns," he says. "How severe it will be, particularly for those that are immunocompromised, or how severe it will be for those who are not vaccinated -- ultimately we want to keep our schools open."
Montgomery County's acting health officer Dr. James Bridgers says despite the Omicron concerns, they're still in the "low" transmission range.
County Executive Marc Elrich says he does expect an uptick in cases over the next two weeks as previous school breaks have produced what Elrich calls "bumps" in the case counts.