CA sends 14 million free COVID tests to schools to help prevent post-spring break outbreaks

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's 7 million students and school employees will receive free at-home COVID tests ahead of their return from spring break.

More than 14 million antigen tests have been shipped or delivered to counties and school districts. The push to limit infections is part of the state's "endemic" approach, emphasizing prevention over mandated masking and business closures.

"California is focused on keeping schools open and students safe, and we're not letting our guard down," Gov. Gavin Newsom said. "We know that COVID-19 is still present in our communities, but the SMARTER Plan is how we keep people safe and continue moving the state forward," he said, referring to the state's acronym for a strategy that calls for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, and testing.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and has not said the coronavirus has reached the endemic stage, where the virus still exists in a community but becomes manageable as immunity builds.

California's plan focuses on stockpiling masks and establishing the infrastructure to provide vaccinations and tests in the event of an outbreak.

California dropped its mask mandate on March 12, nearly two years after the pandemic forced school closures.

The new guidance made face coverings strongly recommended rather than a requirement at schools, regardless of vaccination status. Local jurisdictions are free to impose their own requirements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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