COVID-19 Testing to Sustain In-Person Instruction and Extracurricular Activities in High Schools - Utah, November 2020-March 2021

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 May 28;70(21):785-791. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7021e2.


Cessation of kindergarten through grade 12 in-person instruction and extracurricular activities, which has often occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, can have negative social, emotional, and educational consequences for children (1,2). Although preventive measures such as masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and improved ventilation are commonly used in schools to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and support in-person instruction (3-6), routine school-based COVID-19 testing has not been as widely implemented. In addition to these types of standard preventive measures, Utah health and school partners implemented two high school testing programs to sustain extracurricular activities and in-person instruction and help identify SARS-CoV-2 infections: 1) Test to Play,* in which testing every 14 days was mandated for participation in extracurricular activities; and 2) Test to Stay, which involved school-wide testing to continue in-person instruction as an alternative to transitioning to remote instruction if a school crossed a defined outbreak threshold (3). During November 30, 2020-March 20, 2021, among 59,552 students tested through these programs, 1,886 (3.2%) received a positive result. Test to Play was implemented at 127 (66%) of Utah's 193 public high schools and facilitated completion of approximately 95% of scheduled high school extracurricular winter athletics competition events.§ Test to Stay was conducted at 13 high schools, saving an estimated 109,752 in-person instruction student-days. School-based COVID-19 testing should be considered as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy to help identify SARS-CoV-2 infections in schools and sustain in-person instruction and extracurricular activities.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Testing*
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification
  • Schools / organization & administration*
  • Utah / epidemiology