The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health has been awarded a prestigious Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) grant from NIH to help schools serving Native communities re-open safely for in-person learning. Project SafeSchools aims to help schools implementing screening and surveillance testing through a public health practice initiative, while simultaneously conducting a research study to understand the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on families and school personnel as they navigate return to educational settings.
With cases rising across many of our partner communities, there is an urgent need to support schools and communities with keeping schools safe from COVID-19. The Project SafeSchools Team is currently working with 24 schools across five major school districts with the White Mountain Apache Tribe and Navajo Nation, two Native American tribes disproportionately affected by the pandemic. To date, the project has helped support weekly surveillance testing for approximately 2,500 individuals across these schools, which has helped identify and isolate cases early and prevent COVID spread in schools.
Response to Project SafeSchools has been overwhelming. Many schools that serve Native communities have had limited access to state and federally sponsored testing initiatives, with a particular lack of implementation support for schools to get these programs up and running in an effective way. While our work is making a dent, there is still such a huge need to support schools with on the ground support and supplies to facilitate the safest in-person learning experiences for our communities that are most in need.