More than 100 Mass. schools to try COVID-19 rapid-testing program

More than 100 Mass. schools to try COVID-19 rapid-testing program

BOSTON — More than 100 school districts will try a COVID-19 rapid-testing program in the coming weeks. This is another level of screening if a student or staff member showed up at school and started having COVID-like symptoms, they could go down to the nurse’s office and get a 15-minute test to help them determine what to do next.

The rapid test would give schools instant information to help determine if someone should be isolated from everyone else.

“By testing students and teachers and getting results within minutes, we will be able to identify infected individuals and their close contacts more quickly and stop any spread,” Department of Elementary and Secondary Community Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said.

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The test would be given to someone who has unexplained symptoms while in school.

“If a kid came to school with any symptoms […] this is a rapid test -- 15 minutes -- and it will give you a very strong sense whether the kid has COVID or not,” Health & Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said.

The test does not definitively conclude if someone has COVID-19, but it will help the school contain a potential case.

“Definitely, if it comes out positive, you send the child home, and if it’s negative, maybe a tiny cold, you might leave them in school,” Secretary Sudders said. “Otherwise you send them home to have a PCR test.”

Right now, state education officials believe the protocols in place for in-person learning are working.

“We don’t think transmission is happening in schools, but that doesn’t mean that kids or teachers are not bringing positive cases into schools,” Commissioner Riley said.

About 130 school districts will be using the rapid tests. Parents and guardians will have to consent before a student is tested. A school nurse or medically trained staff member would be the one giving the test at school.

“You close it and wait 15 minutes and then on the outside you get an answer that it is black or pink. If it is pink it is positive. If it is black it is negative,” Gov. Charlie Baker explained.

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