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People who don’t have any symptoms can spread COVID-19. That’s why we need testing to help keep our friends, families, schools, and communities as safe as possible.

Why it still matters

  • Even vaccinated people can spread the disease.

    The vaccines are super effective, but they aren’t magic. In some cases, even vaccinated people can get infected and pass the disease on to others - especially to those who aren’t vaccinated.

    Read more

  • Testing protects vulnerable family members.

    Kids and teachers go home every day to households that may include grandparents, young siblings, or folks with health issues that put them at higher risk.

I heard a reporter who said that they were hearing people say, ‘Well, I tested positive, but I’m sure it’s a false positive because I’m not feeling sick.’ That’s just not how this works. You can be asymptomatic and still be infected. Kids can be transmitting when they show no illness at all. In fact, most of them won’t show symptoms.

Gigi Gronvall, PhD, Associate Professor in Environmental Health and Engineering and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security, From Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Expert Insights
  • We can’t find what we don’t look for.

    One of the things that’s made COVID-19 hard to get rid of is that people can be contagious before they show symptoms.

    By testing community members who aren’t showing symptoms, we can find positive cases before they pass the disease on to others. And let’s not forget - it’s still critical for those who do have symptoms to get tested as soon as possible.

  • Testing gives us data.

    Testing allows us to see how positivity rates are changing in our very own communities. That allows schools and community leaders to make informed decisions about when additional safety measures should be put in place - and when it’s safe to discontinue them.

The weekly testing gives our family tremendous peace of mind. Quick, simple, efficient, and effective.

Marisa Khurana, teacher, Hildreth Elementary School

Planning and logistics

Districts across the country built out school-based testing programs during the 2020 - 21 school year. The lessons they learned have been incorporated into wonderful tools that can guide you through the process.

  • Open and Safe Schools

    Everything you need to design and stand up a COVID-19 testing program in the K-12 setting. Includes downloadable checklists, schedule templates, videos, a searchable database of test vendors, and a peer-to-peer hub that lets you connect with a mentor school or district to get one-on-one advice and share tips.

    Created by the Shah Family Foundation and the CDC.

  • Learn to Return

    The state of Washington’s website supporting their testing program is a fabulous model for how to structure and communicate about a testing program.

    While it doesn’t get as deep into the details as the other websites here, it’s still a great starter kit and overview.

  • The When To Test Calculator

    Curious about how often your school should be testing? Input the number of people in your school and some details about your COVID-19 mitigation strategies, and the calculator tells you how often you’ll need to test to decrease the chance of an outbreak.

    Includes results for nine different types of test, from 15-minute rapid antigen tests to pooled PCR. They have staff on hand to walk you through the process and give you advice, too, if you need it.

    From NIH, based on math from MIT and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

  • COVID-19 School Testing Impact Calculator

    Wondering how testing may impact your campus community? Input the type of school (elementary or middle-high), your quarantine policy, community incidence rate, and what your highest-priority outcome is (Decreased in-school transmission? Maximizing in-person school days?). The calculator tells you how well a range of different testing protocols should work.

    From the Rockefeller Foundation and Mathematica.

Proactive, ongoing, and thoughtful communication with your school community is key to a successful testing program.

Introducing your testing program

Get your program off on the right foot.

Messages to members of our school communities need to be easy to find, easy to read, and easy to understand.

  • Meet the community where they are.

    Are your staff and families used to messages on paper? Print it out. Email? Send it. Do they need meetings? Hold one - or several! Don’t forget Facebook posts, text messages, and notices on your school video screens or on the marquee.

    In fact, don’t rely on a single strategy. What reaches one corner of your community may not reach others. Plus, more avenues of communication will increase your chances of making a memorable or influential connection.

    The Open and Safe Schools Communications Plan includes a sample introductory video, as well as templates you can use to create flyers introducing your testing program, webinars, and more! Created by the Shah Family Foundation in partnership with the CDC.

    The CDC has created its own COVID-19 Communication Resources for schools starting testing programs, too.

  • Answer questions.

    Your community members will have lots of questions like these. Answering them transparently and quickly is one of the best ways to build trust in your testing program.

    • Why are we testing?
    • Where and when will testing take place?
    • How does the test work?
    • How will results be communicated (to the individual and to the school community?
    • Who will be doing the testing?
    • How will my/my child’s privacy be maintained?
    • What will be done with the test samples?

Sample resources

  • Videos

    Parents’ number-one concern about testing is that the sampling will be physically uncomfortable for their kids. Showing families one of these videos can help. Better yet, make one starring your own students!

    How to do saliva collection From Mirimus labs.

    How to do a nasal swab, by a 2nd grader. From York Academy Regional Charter School, in Pennsylvania.

    Saliva collection video by elementary schoolers, in Spanish and Portuguese. From Salem Public Schools, in Massachusetts.

    Saliva collection instructional videos for adults, kids, and preschoolers. From the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, in Los Angeles.

  • Presentations

    Why Test? Template presentation for schools using nasal swabs for sampling. Includes intro to pooled testing.

    Sample presentation for program using rapid tests, from Lower Merion School District, Pennsylvania

  • FAQs, flyers, and infographics

    Testing FAQs From Learn2Return, (Washington state).

    SHIELD Illinois FAQs This one is super-detailed - and might be TMI - but it has all the questions you could ever imagine asking or being asked. Pick and choose from the list to create a document tailored to your community’s needs!

    Why to Test FAQs, customizable templates:

    COVID-19 Testing in Schools Infographics, flyers, social-media posts, videos, and more from the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.

    Why testing is important even for those who are vaccinated. In English and Spanish, from the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center at Arizona State University.

Ongoing Communication

Communicating with your community doesn’t stop when testing starts.

Offering honest updates and engaging them in the process is critical to maintaining trust and participation.

  • Build a dashboard.

    If you have the tech at your disposal, build a dashboard with relevant stats into your school website, to give your community insight into the testing process as well as a sense of ownership. Pro tip: put the dashboard right on the homepage, where it’s as easy as possible to find!

    Information to feature on a weekly basis:

    • Total number of people at the school
    • Number of people tested this week
    • Number of positive cases and the positivity rate
    • How the positivity rate is trending over time
    • Number of close contacts this week

    Some examples:

    Prairie Hills, Illinois. This one is very simple, but effective!

    Dashboard template, PDF format.

  • Send a weekly message.

    Whether it’s a paper newsletter, an email, a Facebook post, or a text, share some information about the testing program on a regular basis.

    You can use this social media toolkit from the Brown University School of Public Health to help get kids and families engaged in testing at your school.


The number-one rule for increasing participation: The easier we make it, the more people will sign up.

  • Make opt-in the default.

    You know what’s easy? Not having to do anything at all. However, medical testing always requires some form of active consent.

    So the next best thing is to make the default form an opt-in. Families and guardians can still opt out, but they need to contact the school directly and ask for a special opt-out form. The case studies here offer more innovative examples.

  • Offer consent forms electronically.

    Making an electronic consent form doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a simple Google form that schools in Watertown, Mass., used.

    Remember, not everyone will have access to technology or internet access, so make printed forms readily available for families/guardians who need them.

All of the things we’re doing—between masking, air ventilation, testing, social distancing—are important, so you can’t hold testing out as being the only thing we need to be doing. But it’s still important, and I think it is going to be important for some time to come.

Gigi Gronvall, PhD, Associate Professor in Environmental Health and Engineering and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security, From Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Expert Insights

How testing data can help your school

Offering ongoing COVID-19 testing empowers you to make the best decisions possible for your students and your community.

  • Keep more kids in school.

    Small outbreaks don’t need to close down your entire school. Testing data allows you to pinpoint who’s positive and who isn’t. A Test to Stay program (see below) can help keep close contacts in class, too.

  • Prepare an off-ramp.

    Nobody wants to have to keep wearing masks and eating outdoors forever. A school-based testing program gives you data from your own campus that can tell you when it’s safe to start ramping down COVID-19 mitigation strategies - one at a time.

  • Help your community.

    School testing programs that include family members and members of the larger school community are one of the best ways for local boards of health to keep track of what the virus is doing.

  • Minimize quarantine with Test to Stay.

    Pioneered in Utah, Test to Stay is a way to allow close contacts of positive cases to continue to come to school in person. Instead of quarantining, individuals are tested each morning with a rapid test, which provides results within 15 minutes. If they test negative, they can go to school. The daily testing continues for five to seven days.

    Following Utah’s lead, Illinois and Massachusetts have both instituted Test to Stay programs to help keep more kids in the classroom without compromising safety.

Important Regulatory Information about SalivaDirect™

SalivaDirect™has not been FDA cleared or approved. It has been authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization for use by authorized laboratories. The test has been authorized only for the detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens. This test is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostic tests for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner.