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New $10 per week incentive for K-12 students to get weekly COVID-19 testing
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Governor Polis announces a new rapid-testing program that all Colorado schools can use to keep learning in person this year. He forgoes a universal mask mandate in schools and leaves it up to local districts to decide.
Governor Polis announced expanded COVID-19 testing program during a August 12 press conference.
Credit: Governor Jared Polis, Facebook

DENVER — During a Sept. 2 news conference, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced students can receive $10 a week for participating in the state-run, rapid-testing program for K-12 students. Polis also said any students who participate will get a first-time $25 gift card. This is part of a federally-funded program announced in August that is available to all schools in the state but not mandatory. 

You can read the full original story published on Aug. 12 below. 

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has announced a federally-funded program that can provide surveillance testing to all schools in the state. The governor, however, does not seem likely to institute a mask mandate in all schools anytime soon. 

Right now, the latest data from the state shows 501 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and most are adults. Polis shared that seven kids ages 10 and under are currently hospitalized, as well as 10 people ages 11 -19. We can expect the state to release more age-specific data on hospitalizations moving forward. Considering these numbers, the governor said Colorado hospitals are not in jeopardy of being overwhelmed.

The new program the governor announced that provides weekly testing for all students in Colorado will officially begin in early September. Districts can choose what level of help they want from this program. It ranges from full-service, which includes people running the rapid-testing, to just simply sending the testing supplies to a district. 

What Polis really wanted to emphasize at the start of this new school year is that each district needs a layered approach to fighting the spread of COVID-19. 

“Remember none of these is a silver bullet for stopping COVID, right?" explained Polis. "It’s some combination for the safest possible school environment, which means mask wearing, social distancing, cohorting, ventilation, surveillance testing. "

Polis said he hopes as many schools and parents as possible participate. He called it an expanded tool that can be used and compared it to the program the Denver Broncos implemented last year to keep its COVID-19 case numbers down. 

“That’s the way the Broncos were able to operate in their bubble during a football season, by doing testing of everybody who went in," said Polis. "We now have that level of testing for schools. It’s really wonderful. Every school child in Colorado can have the same level of protection as a Denver Bronco. And it simply takes buy in from the school districts and families to do that.”

It is a voluntary program, but the state is looking into giving some sort of financial incentives to districts and individuals. For parents, that incentive could be in the range of $5 to $25 for the inconvenience of things like showing up 20 minutes earlier to school. The governor's office is still working out those details. 

The governor also wanted to emphasize this is weekly, surveillance testing of healthy people, not just those with symptoms. Those interested in learning more about the program can go to this website. 

Governor Polis made it clear that in-person learning this year is a top priority. He did not go as far as instituting a mask mandate for schools, leaving it up to individual districts to decide what to do. 

“Our bottom line is of course we want in-person education to be in place this year. Districts have the flexibility to make it safe, but they have to maintain that in-person education,” explained Polis. 

Many districts have decided to institute their own mask policies, while others have not. When asked repeatedly about a possible mask mandate statewide for schools, Governor Polis returned to emphasizing a layered approach. 

“If a school district says ‘Everybody is wearing masks and that’s all we’re doing,’ that does not work," said Polis.

Denver Public Schools is requiring masks for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Jefferson County Schools are only requiring masks for students who are too young to be vaccinated.

Polis did, however, say that if a district is failing to institute any sort of policies and sending too much of its student population back to remote learning, the state would step in. 

“If we see districts are failing to stay in-person because kids aren’t wearing masks, we will absolutely look at taking action," answered Polis. "It is more important that schools are in-person and kids are able to benefit from that learning environment in a safe way.”

Parents should still expect possible short and specific period of times where their children might have to come back home to learn. If there is an outbreak, Governor Polis explains quarantining is part of that layered approach. 

“Parents should be flexible this year. There might be periods of time where 10 days or a week, your class might have to go online if there’s an outbreak in the class," said Polis. "But that is done in the service of keeping schools in-person and making sure they can remain in-person throughout the year.”

Governor Polis is encouraging everyone in the state who has yet to get the COVID-19 vaccine to seriously consider it. Currently, 73.14% of adults have at least one dose, and 65.4% are fully vaccinated. He said the vaccine is the most effective way to fight the virus. He also recognized our current numbers are not at an efficient level to control the general spread of the virus. 

If you're interested in finding out where you can get vaccinated, Colorado has set up this website to help

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