Many facilities won’t administer tests for young children, creating more problems for parents and schools trying to reopen.
Getting a COVID-19 test in the United States has been difficult throughout the pandemic, but parents face an extra hurdle: finding a facility that will actually administer a test for young children.
Many of the thousands of testing centers that popped up across the country over the last six months will not test young children and have clear age limits on who can be given a swab, according to the New York Times. Even some pediatricians’ offices will decline testing a child.
The age restrictions at many of these sites are due to a variety of concerns like health insurance, tests that are unreliable for young children, and the difficulty of getting a toddler or preschooler to remain still enough for the test. Walgreens, for example, has drive-through testing sites in nearly every state, but does not test children at its clinics.
There have been over 500,000 COVID-19 cases reported in children in the United States as of Sept. 3, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Cases among children have steadily increased over the summer. Between July and August, the AAP reported that cases increased 90%. In the past two weeks, cases among kids have gone up 16%.
In Pennsylvania, there have been 7,788 total cases of COVID-19 among 5-18-year-olds since the pandemic began. Of that total, 486 occurred between Aug. 28-Sept. 3.
When the pandemic started, children seemed less susceptible to contracting the coronavirus. However, it is now clear that kids are able to spread COVID-19. But testing hasn’t caught up.
Indiana University Professor Nir Menachemi, who studies health policy and management called this subpar testing a “blind spot” that prevents officials from properly responding to health crises.
“Having a blind spot [in the data] makes you not able to respond from a public health perspective, either with the correct messaging or with the right policies to put into place to protect the people who are vulnerable,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.
Limited testing also creates a problem for schools and daycare providers that need to respond quickly to an outbreak before it spreads further. And once students are ready to go back to school after an outbreak, many will need to prove they have tested negative for the virus. But that can’t happen until they find a testing facility.
In Florida, where schools were pressured to reopen their doors by Gov. Ron DeSantis, health officials announced that their departments would “prioritize” testing for children as they return to school this fall. But, according to the New York Times only about a quarter of the 60 testing sites supported by the Florida division of emergency management will test children of all ages. Plus, Florida’s 18 drive through sites are limited to ages five and older.