MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) It was back to school Wednesday for some students in Monterey County, and the Monterey Peninsula School District is encouraging all students to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to the classroom.
California is reporting its highest test positivity rate ever at 21% after the holidays. Monterey County's rate is just under 14.5%, and Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno says they are now seeing more cases of the Omicron variant compared to Delta.
"Studies show that people infected with Omicron may have a lower risk of serious infection and hospitalization, however, with the rising number of total cases, the total number of patients hospitalized with COVID is rising," said Dr. Moreno.
With testing sites slammed with appointments, school districts are offering alternatives for families to keep COVID out of the classroom.
Students, parents and staff were lined up at the district's free testing site in Seaside located at 1295 La Salle Ave. The site is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for students, staff and their families. You can make an appointment here.
MPUSD is also offering free at-home rapid test kits to all students.
"Last Sunday, we were here. I was expecting 50 people, a hundred people. We had a nonstop line for three hours," said Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh. "We had a number tested here and then we again gave out thousands of the home test kits."
Negative tests are not being required to return to school, but Diffenbaugh says regular testing will help keep students safe from the virus.
"We're encouraging students, as soon as they feel sick, to stay at home, come to the testing site, get tested or use their home test to get tested and don't come to school if they're COVID positive," said Diffenbaugh. "The protocol now is that they need to stay home for at least five days and be able to be symptom free and test negative prior to return."
Diffenbaugh says they hope to organize more distributions for at-home tests as they become available. Governor Gavin Newsom's office posted Tuesday that they had received more test kits to send out to schools.
"We're very hopeful that the tests will continue to come and as soon as we get them, we'll certainly develop a plan to get them out to the families," said Diffenbaugh.