Getting COVID-19 tests for kids can be difficult, but schools often require them. ‘It really puts parents in a tricky position’

Lisa Schencker, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Lifestyles

“It’s the right thing, but it’s a tough scenario for everyone,” Rizman said.

‘A bit frustrating’

Some parents are taking their kids to clinics that charge for testing in hopes of getting them back to school faster.

Federal law generally requires health insurance companies to cover COVID-19 tests at no cost to patients, but some people are being charged by providers because of certain exemptions and nuances in the law. Some of those providers are asking patients to submit receipts to their insurance companies themselves for reimbursement.

State-run testing sites are offering free testing to everyone, without doctors’ orders, regardless of symptoms, though wait times can run as long as three hours. Chicago-run sites also offer testing to everyone, at no cost to patients.

Some other sites have age restrictions. CVS Health, for example, only tests children 10 and older. Walgreens recently lowered its COVID-19 testing age to 3.


At both Walgreens and CVS, parents and/or children have to administer the tests themselves, with guidance from pharmacy workers. They both use tests that involve sticking a swab about an inch up the nose, unlike some others that reach back farther. Parents must fill out online questionnaires to get appointments, and may have to wait depending on demand.

Further complicating matters, some schools and day cares only accept results of PCR tests, not rapid antigen tests, because PCR tests are considered more accurate.

The Cary Grove KinderCare day care, for example, accepts both antigen and PCR results when a child is experiencing symptoms, but will only accept a PCR result if the child has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, said Rebecca Bulava, the center’s director.

In line with state health guidance, the center requires any child showing symptoms to stay home for at least 10 days, only returning once those symptoms disappear. Or, the child can come back if he or she gets a doctor’s note saying a COVID-19 test wasn’t necessary because the child had a different diagnosis. Or, if the child tests negative for COVID-19, he or she may come back as long as the symptoms have been gone for at least 48 hours, Bulava said.


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