New York City has randomly tested more than 15,000 students and staff members for the coronavirus—and so far, it has detected fewer cases than were found in the White House outbreak. The testing program for the city's 1,600 traditional public schools is being seen as a possible model for the rest of the country following initial fears that schools would become a "citywide archipelago of super-spreader sites," the New York Times reports. Health officials say that out of 15,111 staff members and students tested in the first week of the program, there have been only 18 positive tests among the 10,676 results provided so far—13 staff members and just five students. Charter schools are not included in the program.
Even at the 120 public schools closed as a precaution in neighborhoods where cases are surging, there were few positive tests. The testing program, which kicked off Oct. 9, aims to test 10% to 20% of each school's population once a month, though some experts say that won't be enough to detect outbreaks in time. "It’s great that New York City is doing some level of random testing," Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tells the Times. "It’s not at the level that would be ideal." Around 42% of students opted for in-school learning when schools reopened three weeks ago. In one potential problem for the program, only 72,000 of 500,000 students have returned testing consent forms, WABC reports. Officials say that to make it truly random, a much higher proportion of students need to return the forms. (Read more coronavirus stories.)