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New York to send COVID tests to every K-12 student ahead of midwinter recess, Gov. Hochul says

A close-up shot of hands and at-home COVID tests.

COVID-19 at-home rapid test kits are given away during a drive-thru event in Florida.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday that every K-12 student in New York will be given at-home coronavirus tests in advance of the midwinter break in February.

“Testing has been a critical tool to keep schools open,” the governor tweeted. “To continue those efforts, we’re planning to send tests home with every K-12 student ahead of the Midwinter break.”

Exactly how the tests are used will be left up to individual schools, said Madia Coleman, a spokesperson for the governor. It was not immediately clear if New York City is considering requiring a negative test before students would be allowed to return to school after the recess, which runs from Feb. 21-25 in New York City. Coleman did not say if school staff would be given at-home tests as well.

“I never want there to be a shortage of tests,” Hochul said at a press conference on Tuesday. “So we’re going to make sure that we are ready for the winter break and we’ll have enough for everybody.”

Some large school districts, including Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, have required students and staff to test negative to return to school after a break to help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in classrooms. In Chicago, district officials sent 150,000 tests home to families in communities most affected by the pandemic. But most of those tests, which had to be mailed in over winter break, were not returned by the district’s deadline and a substantial share were invalidated.

New York City education officials faced pressure to distribute tests to families ahead of winter break as the omicron variant surged. Although officials encouraged parents to get tested on their own, they did not require a negative test nor did they send COVID tests home.

A spokesperson for the city’s education department did not respond to a request for comment on the governor’s announcement.