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Colorado offers gift cards to students who sign up for COVID testing

Governor Jared Polis gestures with his hand while speaking.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced an incentive program that pays students to get tested for COVID.

Andy Cross / The Denver Post

Colorado will give gift cards to students who participate in regular COVID testing at school.

Gov. Jared Polis announced Thursday that students who get tested through the state’s free school COVID testing program will be eligible for a $25 gift card for the first test and $10 for each subsequent test. In addition, participating schools will get $2.50 for each test administered and reported to the state public health department.

Colorado has set aside $173 million for a school-based testing program using rapid antigen tests. About 450 schools have signed up for the program, roughly 20% of Colorado’s 2,300 public and private K-12 schools. 

“They’re contributing to a public good in getting tested,” Polis said. “It’s good for their parents to know, but there is a public benefit in being able to isolate the virus early and prevent spread.”

Colorado has budgeted for more than 3.9 million tests and incentives, the state health department said. Federal funds are covering the cost.

Polis first floated the idea of paying students to get tested earlier this summer, but it wasn’t clear at the time if the federal government would cover the cost. 

“This could be a powerful, compelling partnership that could make our schools safer and reduce the spread of the virus across the larger community,” Polis said. 

The testing program is voluntary, and students who are younger than 18 need parent permission to participate. Superintendents need to sign off on the plan for public schools to participate. 

State officials have said they aren’t sure why more schools haven’t signed up for the weekly testing program, which is designed to identify people with symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of COVID so they can isolate before the disease spreads.

More information about the testing program can be found here.

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