Houston-area school districts plan to participate in rapid COVID-19 testing program

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The state has seen a great response to its Rapid Test Program statewide. As of Friday, 206 school systems had applied to participate in the program. The idea of the program is to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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With more students now back in the classroom, districts have many safety protocols in place, like social distancing and cleaning. Now, rapid testing will join the list.

Dr. Joseph Petrosino with Baylor College of Medicine says the Abbott test is a good one.

"It's fairly accurate, both in terms of positivity and also not in generating false negatives. It works quite well in symptomatic individuals," Petrosino, chair of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, said.

There is some criteria to be part of the rapid testing program. For example, districts must identify a test coordinator, must have the space to store PPE, and must also store the tests at a certain temperature.

"You can't force a child to be tested. It has to be on a voluntary basis. That, of course, goes back to the parents and guardians as well," said Petrosino.

Some other items to consider are test availability, other aspects of the school and how it's set up in terms of the classroom, Petrosino said.

Some of the school districts that are applying include Katy ISD, Cy-Fair ISD, Humble ISD and HISD.

Pearland ISD said it intends to apply, and Spring ISD said it's seeking more information.

Aldine ISD said it's considering the plan, but it has not made a decision. Friendswood ISD plans to discuss the issue on Monday.

The TEA says all schools that apply and agree to the program requirements will be accepted.

"I do think having testing available is a good idea. It's imperative to understand testing is just one hub of a plan for keeping schools safe. It's not a substitute for wearing masks or social distancing," said Petrosino.

He added that the challenge is creating a one-size-fits-all approach to the diverse state of Texas.

"I think it's a challenge to give instruction to that broad and diverse group of teachers and school systems. The information in there is all good, but I think it leaves a lot of questions unanswered when you get down to the, 'What is my school going to do?'" said Petrosino.

TEA says more than 360,000 tests have been requested so far.

HISD Media Statement

"The Houston Independent School District has been approved to participate in the COVID-19 Rapid Testing program in collaboration with the Texas Education Agency and Texas Division of Emergency Management.

The program will offer COVID-19 Rapid Testing at no cost to students and district employees. The district will be provided with the resources to test campus-based staff and a percentage of students (with permission from parents) to reduce the risk of spread in school communities. The tests will be optional, but all staff who work on a campus will be encouraged to participate in the program.

HISD will begin receiving a monthly allotment of COVID-19 Rapid Tests to cover all campus-based staff and a percentage of the district's student enrollment as early as next week. HISD campus nurses are currently receiving the necessary training to administer the tests. The district will not charge a fee to take the tests, require participation in the program, or distribute tests for non-school or non-educational use."


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