ENOLA, CUMBERLAND COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam and Department of Education Secretary Noe Ortega announced two new initiatives to support schools and preserve in-person education and sports during the pandemic. They were joined virtually by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
Starting Monday, The Pennsylvania Department of Health is directing vaccine providers to assist vaccination clinics in institutions of higher education and K-12 schools throughout Pennsylvania.
The state also announced a partnership with Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks (Ginkgo) to provide free COVID-19 testing in K-12 schools during the 2021-2022 school year.
“A priority of the Wolf Administration is to have and maintain in-person instruction, sports programs, and other extra-curricular activities at schools,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “Unfortunately, we continue to see predominately unvaccinated Pennsylvanians infected with multiple variants of COVID-19, including the highly contagious Delta variant. This reinforces the need for accessible COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible individuals in K-12 schools so that our students, teachers and staff can stay safe.”
According to a release from Governor Wolf’s administration, money for these vaccination and testing sites comes from almost $338 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds allocated to Pennsylvania in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Despite COVID-19 vaccines being available for some individuals, adolescents under the age of 12 still cannot be vaccinated to protect themselves against the virus,” Beam continued. “That is why we are encouraging all K-12 schools to take advantage of a unique opportunity to bring COVID-19 testing into your schools free of charge. It is imperative that students, educators, and staff who feel they need or want a test, especially if they think they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, have access to free COVID-19 testing. In addition to getting vaccinated, this testing initiative is another tool in our toolbox for schools to keep ‘Friday night lights’ shining brightly this year.“