California Delivers Only Half of Promised At-Home Rapid Tests Before Schools Reopened

About half of the rapid at-home tests promised to be delivered to all students and staff in California by the time schools returned from winter break were delivered, leading to criticism of Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials.

At the start of December, the state's health department said it had sent about 2 million of the tests to school districts. Later in the month, Newsom said the state planned to buy and distribute 6 million more tests for every student in the state by the end of the schools' winter break.

At the time, Newsom said the goal was for students to be able to return "knowing that they have not contracted the disease over the holidays."

The schools that did receive the tests likely avoided outbreaks as the positive tests stopped students and staff from returning to school and potentially infecting others.

The Oakland Unified School District announced Tuesday that before school started Monday morning, over 900 combined students and staff had tested positive at school sites set up over the holidays or from the at-home tests provided to students.

California schools chief Tony Thurmond attributed the failure to deliver the tests to "distribution challenges" and delays from the extreme winter weather seen in the state recently, and said the failure was "disappointing."

"We have 10,000 schools in the state so it's a daunting task, but we've got to find ways to make it happen in a more accelerated way," he said, according to The Associated Press.

Gavin Newsom, COVID, At Home Tests, Schools
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at Kingston 11 Cuisine on Oct. 8, 2021 in Oakland, California. Only about half of the at-home COVID tests Newsom said would be distributed to students and school staff across the state were delivered before schools returned from winter break. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In an editorial published Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times asked where are all the COVID tests that Newsom promised for K-12 schools.

"Too many California kids went back to school this week without knowing whether they're spreading the highly contagious Omicron variant," the editorial said.

Sacramento City Unified School District reported that more than 500 students and staff were quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19. The district said it received about 38,000 test kits in December from the Department of Public Health, though it serves about 50,000 students.

"Unfortunately the district did not receive enough kits for all students as we had expected, therefore distribution was focused on ensuring that younger populations ineligible to receive the vaccine were prioritized," the district said in a statement.

In San Francisco, 406 of about 3,600 teachers were absent for a second day Tuesday after classrooms reopened.

On a typical day prior to the pandemic, between 250 and 300 teachers would be absent for medical or other reasons.

Statistics for student absences after the resumption of classes following winter break for the 49,000-student district were not yet available, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.