Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2021
Gov. Whitmer Pilots COVID-19 Testing Program to Protect Students & Families
The MI Backpack Home Tests pilot program will provide free, at-home COVID-19 tests through schools.
LANSING, Mich. - Governor Gretchen Whitmer today launched a new pilot program in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) called MI Backpack Home Tests to provide free, at-home COVID antigen tests to participating schools to create a safer environment for K-12 students, parents, teachers, and support staff amid the pandemic.
"We must use every tool in our toolbox to keep kids safe and ensure that they can continue learning in person this school year, said Governor Whitmer. "With the MI Backpack Home Tests program, we can help protect students, parents, teachers, and school staff by providing free tests directly to Michigan families. While these tests will help keep people safe, the best thing anyone can do to protect themselves and ensure safe, in-person learning, is to get vaccinated. I urge all parents to take their children ages 5 and up to get a safe, effective vaccine."
The MI Backpack Home Tests initiative is kicking off this week in Charlotte Public Schools. Through the voluntary program, parents, students, and staff can sign up to take home COVID-19 test kits. Every person enrolled in the program receives one at-home COVID-19 test kit that includes two tests. MDHHS will provide the kits and educational materials and schools will distribute the kits to participants.
"This pilot offers one more tool to keep our school communities safe," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan's chief medical executive. "Along with the safe and effective vaccine, in-school testing, mask wearing, ventilation, social distancing and handwashing, take-home testing allows schools to educate our children safely during the pandemic."
The MI Backpack Home Tests program expands on the MI Safe School Testing Program launched by MDHHS in January 2021.
"MDHHS is committed to looking for innovative ways to protect the public health during this pandemic," said Dr. Alexis Travis, senior deputy director for the MDHHS Public Health Administration. "The MI Backpack Home Tests program is another tool we can use to combat COVID-19."
The initial program begins in Charlotte schools when they receive materials this week. During the first week of the pilot, schools send information to parents and staff and collect registration forms from those who chose to participate. MDHHS will ship kits to schools to distribute to participating students and staff next week. Once they have their test kits, participants can use the kits at home if someone has symptoms or exposure to someone else with COVID-19.
"Governor Whitmer has consistently been a voice for educators and students and has fought for COVID safety precautions to keep our communities healthy, said David Hecker, President of AFT Michigan. "This home testing program will help parents make informed decisions and help keep students and educators safe and healthy so we can keep kids in the classroom. It's vital that we do everything we can to keep our school communities safe, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer's continued support for students, educators, and families."
Additional school districts - including Benton Harbor Area Schools and Battle Creek Public Schools which have already signed up - will be added into the pilot program in later weeks and receive their test kits after the Thanksgiving break. MDHHS is inviting a geographically diverse group of schools to participate in the pilot so that its effectiveness can be gauged around the state.
School districts and schools that are interested in the testing program can go to ww.michigan.gov/schoolCOVIDtesting and click on the MI Safe Schools Testing Program button. More details will be posted there in the coming days.
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