Frequently Asked Questions



Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can any CA school district conduct rapid antigen testing?

A: Any CA school district can make rapid antigen testing part of the COVID-19 response. To learn more contact the California Department of Public health at

Q: Where do I get the rapid antigen tests for my district?

The California Department of Public Health is supplying CA school districts with Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests while the state’s supply lasts. Tests can also be purchased on the private market if available.

Q: What is a CLIA waiver?

The type of COVID-19 rapid antigen testing being used for this pilot was approved by the FDA with an Emergency Use Authorization that requires a CLIA waiver. A CLIA waiver assures that there is appropriate supervision by a physician or laboratory director. While a rapid antigen test is very simple to use and does not require highly qualified laboratory personnel, it does have to be carried out under the supervision of an eligible health or laboratory professional. To explore starting a testing program under the California Department of Public Health CLIA please email to schedule a run through of the enrollment process.  

Q: What training is required to implement rapid antigen testing at my school district?

A: We recommend training on the following: use of the specific rapid test you employ; the data platform you select to report results to the state; how to set up and manage a testing site; and a series of videos that cover privacy protections and how to use personal protective equipment correctly. See our suggested training resources on the Get Started page.



Q: How do I get the right PPE for my school district?

A: Most schools already have available PPE. You will need KN95 or surgical masks, gloves, and visors. It is advisable to have some gowns and N95 masks on hand  if a health professional needs to actively swab someone who cannot self-swab. N95s can also be used for observing self-swabbing though they are not required.  Staff members using N95s should receive fit testing for their masks.

Q: What other options are there?

A: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are widely used across CA. However, PCR results generally take 1-3 days which means screened individuals who are infectious can still expose others to infection until the result is available. PCR tests are also more sensitive than rapid antigen tests, sometimes detecting the virus in persons who have had COVID-19 recently but are no longer infectious. PCR tests are more expensive, although districts have been successfully billing insurance for staff and teachers to-date. 

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Safely Opening Schools is a project of the Public Health Institute, (PHI) PHI has been a leader in public health and development for over 50 years. PHI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a vision of creating healthy communities where individuals reach their highest potential. Safely Opening Schools is part of PHIs Prevention Policy Group, which works on policy approaches involved in safely opening public schools after Covid-19.