Operation Expanded Testing
In addition to COVID-19 vaccination, physical distancing, and masking, testing is a safe and effective way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Expanded testing helps to create a safe learning environment for children in U.S. schools and decreases the risk of disease transmission in congregate settings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Operation Expanded Testing (OpET) program increases access to testing nationwide, especially for communities that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. OpET provides no-cost testing to child care centers, K-12 schools, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), under-resourced communities, and congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, domestic violence and abuse shelters, non-federal correctional facilities, and other qualified sites. OpET can perform millions of tests through July 1, 2022. These contractor-provided laboratory services include specimen collection supplies, shipping materials, laboratory testing, and results reporting. The recipient sites contribute staff to collect specimens.
Enroll Your Facility into Operation Expanded Testing Today
To enroll your facility into OpET’s no-cost screening testing program, follow these steps.
OpET supports no-cost school-based testing for K-12 students and congregate settings in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The program is available to child care centers, K-12 schools, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, domestic violence and abuse shelters, non-federal correctional facilities, and other qualified sites. Contact your regional coordination hub to see if your school or congregate setting qualifies.
Testing under OpET is no-cost to facilities. OpET is responsible for sample collection supplies, shipping materials, laboratory testing and results reporting. To participate, facilities need to work with their regional coordination hub to enroll, complete training, and provide staff to collect the specimens.
OpET regional coordination hubs primarily provide laboratory-based nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) that use nasal swab collection kits. Saliva sample collection is available in the Midwest region through Battelle. Eurofins (Northeast and South regions) and Battelle (Midwest) offer pooled NAAT testing. Pools testing positive will be automatically retested using individual specimens to determine individual positives.
Sample collection varies by region. All hubs conduct PCR tests through anterior nasal swabs. Hub 2 also collects saliva specimens for those between 3-5 years of age.
The organization or site manages specimen collection and provides staff to do it at the site. For example, a school would make a collection schedule and collect specimens from students. The school would then submit the specimens to the regional hub’s laboratory where the specimens are tested. If the facility cannot provide staffing, the regional coordination hub may coordinate staff at a cost to the facility.
Regional Coordination Hubs
Hub 1 – West – https://letsendthistogether.comexternal icon
Hub 2 – Midwest – www.testedandprotected.orgexternal icon
Hubs 3 & 4 – Northeast & South – https://operationexpandedtesting.comexternal icon
CDC has awarded nearly $30 billion through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) cooperative agreement in support of COVID-19 testing and prevention efforts in communities, as well as among high-risk settings, such as correctional facilities and for people experiencing homelessness. In addition, CDC awarded $10 billion through the (ELC) Reopening Schools Award, which supports COVID-19 screening testing and other prevention activities to reopen and keep schools open safely for in-person instruction. If your jurisdiction received funding under one of these mechanisms, the funds may be used for the costs associated with setting up a site and specimen collection operations necessary for participation in the OpET testing program.
Yes, private schools may enroll in the program.
In May 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD) created the $650 million program, OpET, to expand national COVID-19 testing capacity for children and communities in need of testing.
Facility staff collect the specimens and are given shipping and handling instructions by the regional coordination hub. Shipping is covered both ways by the regional coordination hub.
Most results are reported to the facility within 24-48 hours. Some may take up to 72 hours after the specimen is collected.
Pooling samples is a testing method where a predetermined number of specimens are combined and used in one test. Pooled sample testing increases testing capacity and allows for higher volume screening. If a pool is negative, results are reported as negative for all individuals in that pool. If a pool is positive, the individual specimens from the positive pool are automatically routed for individual testing to determine which samples are positive. Both the positive and negative individual results are then reported. The regional coordination hub will work with your site to develop a testing plan that covers detailed information about pooled testing, as needed. See Interim Guidance for Use of Pooling Procedures in SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostic and Screening Testing for more information.
- Identify your facility’s region and coordination hub.
- Visit your regional coordination hub’s website.
- Enroll your school, child care center, shelter, or other congregate setting.
The program is active through July 1, 2022.