RICHMOND, Va. — As winter break comes to a close, students and staff across Central Virginia are preparing to head back to class. In Richmond, school leaders handed out thousands of at-home rapid COVID-19 tests after many children gathered with family over the holidays amid a record-breaking coronavirus surge.
CBS 6 visited two distribution locations Sunday afternoon. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and Thomas H. Henderson Middle School experienced long lines of vehicles as parents attempted to get their hands on a testing kit.
“These tests are like a godsend to a lot of people," said parent Constance Ramirez-Gonzalez. "I thought it's a great service. With everything that's going on, it's always good to be in the know.”
She said she's concerned for her children's safety as the highly contagious Omicron variant infects Virginians at unprecedented levels.
“I believe that's every parent's concern, because when you take these children off to school, you have to remember that they have to go back home," Ramirez-Gonzalez said. "That can impact those who live in the home, especially the elderly and children."
Lawrence Howard with Progressive Pipeline Management helped distribute tests to families and was surprised by the turnout.
“I didn't think it was going to be this big," he said. “A lot of people are excited. They're thanking us a lot, offering us water and drinks, and they're just happy that we’re giving back.”
8,000 total kits were distributed at four different schools. Still, Howard said that probably wouldn't be enough tests to meet the demand.
“We are expecting to run out," Howard said.
Re-entry testing is just one of several mitigation efforts RPS put in place to combat spread of the Omicron variant.
Starting Jan. 10, city schools will implement a "Test-to-Stay" program where students who have been exposed to COVID-19 will be tested, and if their result is negative, they don't need to quarantine. 25,000 additional tests have been ordered for this initiative.
Unvaccinated staff will be tested weekly.
Middle and high school students and staff will be given KN95 masks.
Air filters will be replaced.
Fifteen in-school vaccination events are scheduled for January and February.
“If you feel that your child is sick, even if you think that it's a cold, they should take the proper precautions to make sure that they not only keep themselves safe, but their children and other people safe as well," Ramirez-Gonzalez said.
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Virginians age 5+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Go to Vaccine Finder to search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).
Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.
These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.