Baker Announces New COVID-19 Testing Program for Schools

HYANNIS – Governor Charlie Baker has announced that weekly COVID-19 pooled testing will be made available within the next month to schools across the state.

The state says the new program expands upon rapid testing initiatives that began in schools in December. 

The Department Of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in collaboration with the COVID-19 Response Command Center, will provide participating school districts with testing kits.

Schools utilizing in-person or hybrid learning environments will be prioritized, but schools in remote learning that are looking to bring students back into classrooms will also be able to participate in the pooled testing program, said the Administration. 

“Pool testing will provide additional safeguards to stop the spread and gives students, parents, teachers and staff the confidence that it is safe to be in schools. This new testing will give school officials more knowledge about what is happening in their buildings every day,” said Baker. 

The pooled testing method involves mixing several test samples together to be tested with a PCR test for detection of the coronavirus. 

If a pooled test result is negative, then all individuals within that pool sample are presumed negative and may continue to remain in school. 

If the pooled test result is positive, then everyone in that specific pool is given an individual diagnostic test. 

Identified positive individuals and close contacts, including students, teachers and staff,  must follow isolation guidance and quarantine. 

With this method, more individuals can be tested using the same amount of laboratory resources as a single PCR test, said the Administration. 

At least once weekly, a short nasal swab will be used for the pool testing and results will be delivered within approximately 24 to 48 hours.

Baker said that DESE will assume the 15$ to 30$ million cost for the new testing program during its start-up, funded by federal stimulus funds. 

Districts and schools may continue using pooled testing afterwards by purchasing the tests and any other materials and software necessary from a statewide contract using their federal stimulus dollars. 

“There’s no doubt that the virus will be with us for a while, and while there’s a light at the end of the tunnel associated with the roll out of vaccines, we can’t wait for everybody to be vaccinated before our kids get back to school,” said Baker. 

Districts and schools that are interested in the program must notify DESE of their participation by January 15.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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