This pandemic isn’t over, and in our rush to return to normal, I fear we’re ignoring the risk to children.

As an epidemiologist, I urge all schools to adopt regular virus testing for teachers, staff, and students this fall. Vaccinations and testing creates a protective bubble against the disease to keep students safe and help contain outbreaks in your community.

In areas where immunization rates remain low and for children younger than 11, for whom no vaccine is yet available, the need for a virus screening program is even more essential.

The reality is that until we reach herd immunity, testing will remain a critical tool for containing outbreaks. It is in the best interest of everyone — administrators, teachers, parents, and students — to detect infections early before they force widespread quarantines.

Now, Illinois health officials have announced they’ll provide free or subsidized virus testing to every public school, making safety a viable option for every district.

I realize we all have pandemic fatigue, and we ache to return to normal, but this virus doesn’t care, and it’s still among us.

So say yes to the test.

Dr. Rebecca Lee Smith

Associate professor of pathobiology, University of Illinois