Lake County Schools, with the help of Adult Medicine of Lake County, the Department of Health in Lake County, and Lake County government, is making rapid testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus available to all district employees and students prior to the first day of school on Aug. 24, says a press release district officials issued Tuesday.
Additionally, roving nurses will be available throughout the school year to test symptomatic students and employees. This will allow the district to more quickly and accurately identify students and staff who need to be quarantined instead of shutting down entire classes or other large groups because of the possibility of exposure.
“The safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” Superintendent Diane Kornegay says in a statement. “Having the ability to quickly determine when someone has been infected will help us minimize risk of infection to others. We will know exactly who should be quarantined and when it’s safe for them to return.”
The hope is that parents will not hide their children’s symptoms with fever reducing medicines and then send them to school, where they could potentially infect others. “Instead, they can let their school nurse know about the symptoms, get tested, and get answers right away,” says Matt Cady of Adult Medicine of Lake County.
“This will help us establish a baseline,” says School Board member Bill Mathias in the press release. “Parents can send their children to school knowing that we are making every effort to create a safe learning environment.”
District leaders are also pursuing funding partnerships for other safety measures in classrooms, including acrylic partitions for tables and desks and a protective coating that could prevent viruses and bacteria from adhering to and growing on flat surfaces.
For rapid testing, a simple finger-prick will yield results in 10 minutes. Those whose results show an active infection will receive a second test for confirmation. The procedure will also test for antibodies, indicating that a person has been infected with the virus at some point in the past.
People with confirmed positive test results would be required to quarantine for three days and then be tested again. Once they test negative, they can come to school or work without restrictions.
The process will work similarly during the school year. A child or employee who shows symptoms can be tested quickly, as can anyone else with whom he or she has been in contact. They could be asked to quarantine for three days then return to school or work once they have a negative test.
“In the event of a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in the school district, our use of rapid tests, which return results in minutes versus using traditional nasal swab tests, which can take weeks to return results, will allow us to quickly identify those that have truly become infected with COVID-19, isolate those individuals and diminish the risk of lengthy and unnecessary quarantine periods for staff and students who are in fact not confirmed as being diagnosed with COVID-19,” says Matt Cady. “This ability for swift testing will allow the school district to maintain a better handle on the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Throughout the year as the need arises, students and staff can continue to be tested at convenient locations throughout the community. Overall, this will give the school district the ability to specifically address the needs of the individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 versus treating everyone with the same less effective blanket quarantine policy.”
“Many of our parents work outside the home and the idea of a blanket 10- to 14-day quarantine could sideline them financially,” Bill Mathias says. “With rapid testing, that quarantine period can be drastically reduced for those who are not infected. Students can get back to thriving in their classrooms and parents can get back to work much more quickly.”