COVID screening testing

Updated Oct. 4, 2021

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COVID testing for students and staff

COVID screening testing is a mitigation strategy that schools can consider for an additional layer of protection and to reduce the risk to in-person education. When layered with our existing mitigation strategies, testing will further help contain spread in schools and ensure safe learning environments for students and staff. 

School screening testing can help to:

  • Quickly identify and isolate students and staff with COVID-19. 
  • Identify and quarantine students and staff who may have been exposed to COVID-19. 
  • Identify clusters indicating spread of COVID-19. 
  • Protect students, staff, family members and others who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 or are otherwise at risk for getting seriously sick from COVID-19.
  • Reduce the risk to in-person education.

School testing opportunities 

HIDOE has partnered with the state Department of Health (DOH) to coordinate school-based COVID-19 testing for eligible students, staff and school communities, at no cost, through federally funded programs. This involves testing asymptomatic individuals who do not have known or suspected exposure to COVID-19. 

There are currently two options available to schools — Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) and Operation Expanded Testing (OET). Schools are  in the process of registering for these opportunities and training staff. 

All programs are voluntary screening testing programs that are available to students or staff who provide the required consent. 

Operation Expanded Testing (OET)

OET is available to all schools. Sites use PCR tests that are administered by school staff. Samples collected on nasal swabs are sent to a mainland lab for processing. Parents are then provided with a link to the test results, which are available approximately 48 hours later.

Most HIDOE public schools have registered for training to be eligible to participate in the OET program. Some schools are serving as testing hubs for students and staff from other schools within their complex to have access to testing. The Department is also in the process of setting up complex area support teams to help accelerate the rollout of this program. See list of schools below.

Parents interested in registering their child for a school testing or learning more information about this program should reach out to their school for more details. 

Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) 

ELC prioritizes schools in more vulnerable communities. Tests are administered and processed by a healthcare provider. This program has started to roll out at some neighbor island schools and is expected to expand to Oahu soon.

Increased Community Access to Testing (ICATT)

Several Oahu schools piloted the ICATT program over the summer, which involved CVS conducting screening tests on campus and/or providing vouchers for testing at CVS locations for students, staff and family members of the school community. The pilot program ran from June to September 2021 and will be evaluated for future use.

Community testing opportunities 

As the Department works to ramp up school testing sites, students, staff and community members are encouraged to take advantage of the free COVID-19 testing opportunities that are available on all islands. Click here to find a testing site near you.


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