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Child Care And Preschools In Massachusetts To Get Rapid COVID Tests For Kids, Staff

BOSTON (CBS) - For working parent Christine Liu, daycare has been essential for four-year-old Zoey, but is often disrupted with positive COVID cases. "She had exposure at her school and to keep everyone safe they required her to stay at home and follow the CDC guidelines," said Liu.

Her daughter attends the Ellis Early Learning Center in Boston which got a visit from Governor Baker on Wednesday. It's one of 7700 licensed daycare centers in the state providing care to an unvaccinated population of young children and trying to keep them, their families and staff safe from COVID and the centers open.

"Rapid tests are expensive and hard to come by," said Ellis Center CEO Lauren Cook. "Ellis spent nearly $10,000 this past week on rapid tests, that's $10,000 we don't have."

The governor announced another phase of the state's rapid testing distribution program, making tests available at no cost for child care centers by the end of the month, like the K-12 schools he announced yesterday with the purchase of 26 million rapid tests.

"We know it can be extremely disruptive to many parents, caregivers and kids to have to pull kids out of daycare, especially without knowing if they're testing positive or not," said Baker.

Not just weekly testing, but any child or staff members who has been exposed will be allowed to stay in daycare if they test negative for five days. For parent Madeline Cruz it will relieve some pressure. "It's very hard every time someone tests positive to keep a child at home," she said.

The tests will be available for daycare centers who decide to join the program starting the week of January 31.

Governor Baker once again calls it a game changer. "We need a lot more testing capacity to be flexible to meet us where we are and we need those results in less than 24 hours," Baker said.

He says how long the program lasts will depend on its success.

The initiative, announced Wednesday will give child care providers these three testing options for children and staff:

Rapid Cohort Testing:

Testing staff and children 2 years old and older in a group (cohort) where there was direct exposure to an individual who is positive for COVID-19. This option tests cohorts of direct contacts (e.g., single classroom or stable family child care attendance), rather than requiring individuals to quarantine.

Symptomatic Rapid Antigen Testing:

Testing for staff and children 2 years old and older who show symptoms related to COVID-19. This allows child care centers to quickly identify and isolate positive cases or confirm negative cases and keep children in care.

Weekly Pooled Testing:

Weekly PCR testing for all consenting staff and children 3 years old and older.

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