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Beutner Defends Cost Of LAUSD COVID-19 Testing, Tracing Program

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Unified School District Monday launched its massive COVID-19 testing and tracing program as students prepared to start the new school year completely online.

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"This will help get students back to school as soon as possible while protecting the health and safety of all in the community," LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said.

The partnership between LAUSD, the University of California Los Angeles, Stanford University and healthcare companies will focus on testing students, staff and families at a cost of $300 per student — millions of dollars over the course of the year.

"Critics may challenge the cost," Beutner said. "But, if we can isolate even just a few cases and keep others from the harm the virus causes, it will be worth it."

Beutner also said the cost of the program was a fraction of the $17,000 Californians spend each year to educate a single student and paled in comparison to the "importance schools will play in reopening the world's fifth largest economy."

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The effort will focus on data collection and will study the impact of the district's reopening plan, according to researchers involved with the program.

"Tests will be provided to staff who are currently working at schools as well as their children who are participating in childcare provided for Los Angeles Unified staff," Beutner said.

United Teachers Los Angeles said that, while the majority of its members were choosing to teach from home rather than teach remotely from schools, it supported the testing effort.

"We do think that LAUSD being on the forefront of testing students and teachers and community is good, because we know that schools are kind of the hubs of the communities for a lot of our students," Julie Van Winkle, UTLA secondary vice president, said.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County public health director, said that although testing can play an important role in infection control, she said it was not a substitute for social distancing and other protective measures such as wearing a face covering and washing hands.

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