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USD 428 drops Test to Stay program
Free at-home COVID tests are available
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Free at-home COVID tests are available

Every home in the United States is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests, government officials announced Tuesday. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.

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This is an updated version of an earlier story.

TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced that as of Feb. 1, COVID-19 contact outreach and monitoring, otherwise known as contact tracing, operations will be discontinued at KDHE.

KDHE contact tracing staff will be reassigned to contact investigations. Individuals who are positive for COVID-19 will now be responsible for letting their close contacts know about their potential exposure.

Local county health departments have already begun to wind down contact tracing and K-12 schools who were participating in contact tracing as part of the Test to Stay program may temporarily suspend contact tracing as well.

Contact tracing is when Public Health notifies close contacts to let them know that they were exposed to infectious disease and tells them about the signs and symptoms to watch out for.

At Great Bend USD 428, administrators met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the proposed change. School officials said that in addition to the KDHE decision, the Kansas State Department of Education supports a 30-day temporary suspension of all contact tracing.

Based on that, the district announced that USD 428 will no longer notify families whose children may have been in contact, through classroom or extracurricular settings, with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

“Students and staff who were previously quarantined as a close-contact, or those currently participating in the Test to Stay program, can return to school on Wednesday, Jan. 19, as long as they have NO symptoms,” the district announced. “This change also shifts USD 428’s testing program. We will no longer be offering Test to Stay, but instead, testing will be used for diagnostic purposes as needed.”

Parents and families are expected to regularly monitor children for symptoms of COVID-19 and notify the school if a child tests positive. They were reminded not to send children to school if they are sick or test positive.

All students who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home for 10 days and be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication before returning to school.

Statewide, participation in contact tracing has always been voluntary. The decision to end contact outreach and monitoring was made due to the surge in the amount of positive COVID-19 cases and the public’s willingness to participate has diminished since the beginning of the pandemic.

“As we enter the third year of this pandemic, public health has to begin to adjust the level of response to help alleviate the strain on the Public Health system,” Janet Stanek, Acting Secretary, said. “The pandemic is far from over, but this step is a move toward managing COVID-19 as an endemic disease. The responsibility of protecting yourself and others belongs to all of us.”

If the individual with COVID-19 exposed others at high-risk settings such as schools, correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, daycares and churches, KDHE or the local health department will notify the setting. The setting will be responsible for identifying close contacts and notifying them about the potential exposure.