This COVID-19 Testing Task Force School Testing page offers California school districts information on COVID-19 testing for students and staff in partnership with the California Department of Public Health’s Valencia Branch Laboratory. For recommendations on how to support COVID-19 testing at your school site outside of the Valencia Branch Laboratory, please find more information here.

For more information and resources about COVID-19 and schools, visit the State of California’s Safe for All Schools Hub.

School Testing Cadence

In order to support the safe re-opening of schools, the California Department of Public Health has set in place testing cadence based on five tiers. These five tiers are assigned to counties based on the respective county’s adjusted case rate and test positivity. Each tier features cadence on the testing performed for both staff and students which varies in cadence around testing purpose and frequency.

County TierStaff Testing CadenceStudents K-12 Testing Cadence

Yellow

Symptomatic* and response testingSymptomatic* and response testing

Orange

Symptomatic* and response testingSymptomatic* and response testing

Red


Symptomatic* and response testing
+ Every 2 weeks asymptomatic testing
Symptomatic* and response testing
+ Every 2 weeks asymptomatic testing

Purple



Symptomatic* and response testing
+ Every 2 weeks asymptomatic testing
Symptomatic* and response testing
+ Every 2 weeks asymptomatic testing

CR>14

Symptomatic* and response testing +
Weekly asymptomatic (PCR or twice
weekly antigen)**
Symptomatic* and response testing +
Weekly asymptomatic (PCR or twice
weekly antigen)**

Note on reopening

If CR ≥ 25: K-12th grade reopening is not permitted.
For more information: See testing guidance here.

Where to find my county’s tier?

To determine which tier your school is in, access the following link and input the county in which your school is located in “Find the status for activities in your county”.

If your county is in any tier other than purple, then that is your tier. If your county is in the Purple tier, you will need to check the county’s adjusted case rate to determine if it falls into CR>14. To do so, click the “Understand the data” section for your selected county. Type in your county name into the “Find a county” section and click the highlighted county on the map to the left. Under “County metrics” locate the “New COVID-19 cases per day per 100K” metric. If it is above 14, then your counties is under CR>14 testing cadence.

TP = Test positivity = (positive tests)/(total tests) x 100%
CR = adjusted case rate, as described in the Blueprint
* Symptomatic screening of K-12 Students for Symptoms of COVID-19 CDC cadence here
** Weekly asymptomatic testing assumes the use of a PCR test. If antigen testing is used, testing should be at a twice weekly cadence. To further understand PCR and antigen testing please refer to the following link
Note 1: Students or staff who have tested positive for active infection with SARS-CoV-2 virus within the last 90 days are exempt from asymptomatic testing.
Note 2: Any school currently open is subject to the minimum testing requirement standards established by Cal/OSHA. These standards include response testing
for exposed cases and outbreak testing for everyone weekly until no longer considered an outbreak. Please refer to Cal/OSHA cadence for complete details.

Testing Plan Development

Testing Plan Calculator

This interactive calculator allows schools/districts to estimate the weekly testing capacity required based on number of students and number of staff. The calculator is updated with new California Blueprint for a Safer Economy metrics as they become available.

Testing and Partnership Options

After understanding your COVID-19 testing requirements, the next step is choosing a lab partner. CDPH has set up the Valencia Branch Laboratory to help provide access to affordable COVID-19 testing. CDPH also provides a list of labs in California with additional testing capacity as well as guidance for antigen testing.

Type of testPartner modelsDescriptionHelpful Links
PCR Testing

Valencia Branch
Lab (VBL)

The VBL is a public health lab managed by the
CDPH with the help of various partners, it
provides affordable COVID-19 testing support
with result turn around time within
24-48 hours of the specimen being received by the
laboratory. Schools partnering with the VBL
will be provided COVID-19 test kits, test processing,
and test management and resulting through the Color
platform and may utilize the state’s transportation
network at no additional charge to return specimen to
the VBL.
Learn More


VBL Schools Financing



Commercial labs
in California

There are many other commercial labs in
California that provide COVID-19 testing
support. The support these labs provide may
include full service (lab can provide onsite/
offsite sample collection), enhanced sample
service (lab can provide test kits, manage
inbound logistics and conduct testing) or testing
service only (lab can conduct testing, school will
provide their own collection kits).
Commercial lab list



Antigen Testing

State of California, Commercial and
Philanthropic
Partners

COVID-19 antigen tests are considered to be
‘point of care’ tests and thus are processed on
site (e.g., school). Results are available almost
immediately (within 15-20 minutes). There are
additional requirements for this testing platform
such as training of personnel for the testing and
regulatory requirements. If you are interested
in learning more, please email
TTFSchoolInquiry@cdph.ca.gov
Interest form

Antigen test guidance

State and Federal Funding Sources for School Testing Plans

The state and federal government have allocated funding to support school testing. The below table outlines a few options for schools to explore:

Potential funding
sources
Available fundsDescriptionHelpful Links
Elementary and
Secondary School
Emergency Relief III
(American Rescue Plan)

TBDAdditional federal funds allocated
to the State of California for
Elementary and Secondary School
Emergency Relief that K-12 schools
can access for health and safety
purposes, among other purposes.
TBD
State of California – In-
Person Instruction
Grants

$2 billion

Funding for schools offering in-person
instruction in the 2020-21 school year
to support the costs associated with
providing that instruction including
health and safety purposes.
AB 86



2020 Budget Act –
Elementary and
Secondary School
Emergency Relief

$1.5 billion

Federal funds allocated to the State
of California for Elementary and
Secondary School Emergency Relief
that K-12 schools can access for
health and safety purposes.
2020 Budget Act Info




2020 Budget Act –
Learning Loss
Mitigation

$5.3 billion

Funding for learning loss mitigation
that may also be used for health and
safety purposes.
2020 Budget Act Info




Elementary and
Secondary School
Emergency Relief II

$6 billion

Additional federal funds allocated
to the State of California for
Elementary and Secondary School
Emergency Relief that K-12 schools
can access for health and safety
purposes.
Emergency Relief Info

Furthermore, the Department of Managed Health Care has issued emergency regulations regarding testing requirements for health plans. All Plan Letter 20-20 provides insurance guidance for the testing of essential workers. Please also see their FAQs for more information.

Partnering with Valencia Branch Laboratory

The Valencia Branch Laboratory (VBL) is a public health laboratory managed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) with the help of various partners. It provides affordable COVID-19 testing support with result turn around time within 24-48 hours of the specimen being received by the laboratory.

How to partner with VBL*

2: Set up your test site

3: Start testing!

*For independent charter or private schools, please refer to the Playbook to learn about your specific onboarding process. The first step in that process is to compete the VBL Interest Form.

**Color provides the software interface for processing test results. If you are a district that did not receive an onboarding form from Color, please visit Color’s support page and submit a request using the support form under “Contact our Support team.” 

The Playbook to Stand Up School-Based Collection Sites

The Playbook offers a step-by-step guide to districts and Local Education Agencies on how to partner with VBL to ramp up capacity of COVID-19 Testing

Helpful Starting Materials

Review the testing overview one-pager to learn the basics

Sign-up for our weekly introductory webinar

Learn about Valencia Branch Laboratory financing options

View video demonstrating how students can self-swab

Youth Sports Testing with Valencia Branch Laboratory

If you are a public school district or local education agency that would like to offer COVID-19 testing for qualifying high contact youth sports by partnering with the state’s Valencia Branch Laboratory, please review the following one-page flyer and Frequently Asked Questions to learn more. 

Frequently Asked Questions: High Contact Youth Sports Testing

Q: Who is eligible to participate in this testing program?

A: Public schools in counties with an adjusted case rate between 14-7 per 100,000.

Q: Can private youth sport clubs participate in this testing program?

A: No.

Q: How long will this testing program be made available to public schools?

A: The testing program will be made available to public schools on February 26th and through July 2nd.

Q: Does this testing program cover all youth sports?

A: No. This testing program is specific to high contact sports including football, rugby, and water polo. The guidance issued by the California Department of Public is broader than testing and is applicable to other youth sports.

Q: How is high contact youth sports defined?

A: Team sports with frequent or sustained close contact (and in many cases, face-to-face contact) between participants and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.

Q: Is there an age limit for which testing is applicable for this testing program?

A: For sport participants 13 years of age or above as evidence shows that younger children do not seem to be major sources of transmission—either to each other or to adults. Note that if more than 50% of a team’s participants are less than the age of 13 then the entire team is exempted from the testing requirement.  Coaches, however, will still be required to meet the testing requirement.

Q: What is included in the cost covered by the state for the testing program?

A: The cost covered by the state includes: specimen collection kits, laboratory specimen processing, specimen transportation (if using the state’s COVID-19 Courier Network), and test resulting.

Q: How frequently are youth to be tested?

A: Pursuant to the guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health, testing should occur weekly among sport participants and coaches. If competing, testing performed with test results made available within 24 hours of play.

Q:  Do athletes have to compete in order to be eligible to participate?

A: No.

Q: Are coaching and athletics staff included in this testing program?

A: Yes.

Q: Can schools onboard to the testing program sooner than the two weeks in the flyer?

A: Yes. The two week timeline is the average time it takes to complete the onboarding steps through the CDPH Valencia Branch Laboratory. Many public schools are already on-boarded so no new steps would be required. Additionally, the state is committed to accelerating the onboarding process to ensure there is access to testing in schools.

Q: Does a youth athlete have to test multiple times if they are being routinely tested and have a competition in order to meet the 24 hour test result requirement?

A: No. If the youth athlete is being tested weekly (PCR or antigen) then that weekly testing is sufficient and meets the testing requirements for that week and any competitions during that week.

Q: Does a specimen have to be collected 24 hours prior to competition?

A: No. The result, not the specimen collection, must be available 24 hours prior to competition. If the youth athlete is being tested weekly (PCR or antigen) then that weekly testing is sufficient and meets the testing requirements for that week and any competitions during that week.

School Antigen Testing

The State of California and the Department of Public Health (CDPH) Testing Task Force have developed a program for antigen testing in California K-12 schools. If you are a school or district interested in partnering with the state for antigen testing, please use the following links to access an interest form, the K-12 School Antigen Testing Program Playbook, and antigen testing guidance.

Fill out the K-12 schools antigen testing interest form

Review K-12 School Antigen Testing Playbook

Review CDPH antigen testing guidance

Resources

Questions about Testing or

the Task Force?

 

 

 

Learn more about Valencia Branch Laboratory