Atlanta Public Schools to mandate COVID-19 testing for employees

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring announced Thursday that employees must undergo twice weekly COVID-19 testing starting in September.  STEVE SCHAEFER/AJC FILE PHOTO

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Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring announced Thursday that employees must undergo twice weekly COVID-19 testing starting in September. STEVE SCHAEFER/AJC FILE PHOTO

Atlanta Public Schools employees must be tested twice a week for COVID-19 starting next month.

The district announced the requirement on Thursday, saying the extra step will help protect students and staff. The mandatory testing will begin after Labor Day.

”Surveillance testing will allow us to keep up our momentum of quality, in-person learning and minimize the risk for everyone. Even if you are fully vaccinated, or have no symptoms, you may unknowingly expose others to the COVID-19 virus,” said Superintendent Lisa Herring in a written statement.

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Georgia currently has the nation’s fifth-highest number of children hospitalized with COVID-19, according to federal health data. Two hundred-fifty children were admitted to Georgia hospitals in the week ending Aug. 25.

APS launched a voluntary COVID-19 testing program at schools for students and staff in February. The district said that the number of staff participating in the testing program was low.

From Aug. 16-20, 3,266 employees and 8,799 students were tested, according to district data provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. Of those tests, 142 came back positive.

For the week ending Aug. 20, APS reported a total of 395 COVID-19 cases among all staff and students, up from 224 the week before.

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The district said the decision to require tests for staff was based on vaccination rates, case numbers and other data.

Since mid-July, 189 employees tested positive for COVID-19. About half were vaccinated. APS sent out a survey to its 6,000 employees to determine how many were vaccinated. Of the 5,044 who responded, 81.4% said they were fully vaccinated, according to APS.

The district said it is also exploring mandatory vaccines for staff. Earlier this week, City Schools of Decatur said it is exploring mandating vaccines for students and staff.

This story has been updated. Staff reporter Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.