Atlanta schools give nearly 25,000 COVID tests in first weeks of class

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Nearly 25,000 COVID-19 tests were administered to Atlanta Public Schools employees and students in the first three weeks of the fall semester, a number that officials want to go up.

The district launched a weekly surveillance testing program at schools in February as a way to curb the spread of the disease by identifying sick individuals, even if they don’t show symptoms.

The testing program is currently voluntary for students and staff, but after Labor Day employees will be required to take twice weekly tests.

Participation numbers increased each week since school started, but officials are urging more students to sign up.

The testing program is available throughout the district, which enrolls about 51,000 students and employs roughly 6,000 staffers. About 17% of all Atlanta students were tested in the third week, according to data provided by APS to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“More testing will help limit spread, but need more parents to opt students in too,” said school board Chairman Jason Esteves in a recent tweet.

In the first three weeks of classes, 245 out of 24,518 tests were positive for a positivity rate of 1%.

In a written statement issued last week , Superintendent Lisa Herring called frequent surveillance testing “the best tool available to detect asymptomatic carriers.”

The district signed a contract with Atlanta-based testing company Viral Solutions to run the program.

APS surveillance testing numbers:

Aug. 2-6: 2,714 tests (1,267 staff, 1,447 students)

Aug. 9-13: 9,739 tests (2,875 staff, 6,864 students)

Aug. 16-20: 12,065 tests (3,266 staff, 8,799 students)