Thirty-three cases of COVID-19 from more than 40,000 tests administered to teachers, staff and students of child care programs around the state have been detected since September as part of a partnership between the state and the nonprofit Neighborhood Villages.

The program run in collaboration between Neighborhood Villages and the Department of Early Education and Care started as a pilot over the summer, and ramped up this fall with support from Operation Expanded Testing, a federally-funded program that offers no-costs surveillance testing to schools and community organizations.

Neighborhood Villages said Monday that since the September expansion 42,431 teachers, staff, and students have been tested, with 33 positive results, for a positivity rate of .077 percent. The 10 positive cases detected during the week of Nov. 8 through Nov. 14 were the most since the program expanded on Sept. 20.

“Consistent, comprehensive testing of our early education and care sector — particularly without a vaccine available for these young children — is a key to ensuring our teachers, staff, and children remain safe while keeping these programs open and operating for families,” said Neighborhood Villages co-president Sarah Muncey. “We are thrilled with the immediate and growing success of this groundbreaking testing program in which Massachusetts is leading the nation in offering free, comprehensive COVID testing in the child care sector.”

Massachusetts was the first state in the country to apply Operation Expanded Testing to the child care sector, and since September has seen participation grow from 76 programs to 230, with the number of tests administered weekly climbing from 2,560 to 7,189.

More than half of the most recent weekly tests – 4,296 – were conducted on children under 17. The program has the capacity to reach 13,000 test a week, with testing administered by Affinity Empowering, Inc.

While children age 5 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated, younger children in day care programs still do not qualify. As of Nov. 17, 1,166 cases of COVID-19 had been detected in children age 4 and under over the previous two weeks, and another 5,061 cases were found in children age 5 to 14.

State-funded pooled testing is currently offered at K-12 schools.

(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.

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