Some schools take part in pilot program for rapid coronavirus testing


(NewsNation Now) — Just this week, both Texas and Arkansas announced rapid testing is coming to some schools. For Texas, it’s a pilot program to see how it helps in mitigating the virus’ spread. Across the country, districts are implementing what is financially feasible in order to fortify their campuses.  

In the most unprecedented academic year we have ever seen, quick and constant safety upgrades are hitting school campuses. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announcing rapid testing is coming to his state—some for use in schools.

“This is the first time we’ve developed a plan for sentinel testing, or surveillance testing, that goes beyond simply symptomatic or exposure-type testing,” said Hutchinson.

The rapid testing is a slow experiment in Texas beginning with eight districts.

Chane Rascoe is the superintendent of Lampasas ISD in Texas—one of the districts to receive the tests touting 15-minute results. He said his school was dealing with problematic delays in identifying which students had the virus. Without previous access to rapid testing, families were traveling to surrounding areas to get it done.

“Local health authorities would not be contacted for several days in relation to a positive test, so we were having some delays in relation to being able to contact trace those kids,” said Rascoe.

The new testing option is a relief for parents like Emily Stone who made the choice to send her first grader back to the classroom this year.

“The best decision for her was to just go back to school,” said Stone. “She’s just that type of kid, she thrives more on social interaction.”

In addition to testing, collecting protective gear has been an undertaking in and of itself for schools across the country. A campus warehouse for Austin ISD is now filled to the brim with disposable masks and face shields for students and staff—3.1 million masks have come and gone there.

Even school nurses have a different uniform in 2020. In New York, Peg Puma said this much gear is a first in her 16 years. She said nurse’s radars are especially heightened this semester for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

“What’s hard is that the parents aren’t always very happy with what we have to say,” said Puma. “And unfortunately we’re just following the state and county health department guidelines.”

Because rapid testing is currently just a pilot program in Texas, patients must opt-in to take part—requiring some students to have parent permission. Other schools have the ability to apply for rapid testing. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) adding that it is his hope to see this ramp up across the state.

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