HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A statewide rapid testing program in schools is getting a lot of interest from school systems across the state.
The program is voluntary and school systems must apply. As of Monday night, 247 school systems had been accepted into the program, less than a week after the program opened up statewide after a pilot program. Some local districts participating include HISD, Katy, and Galena Park. It is free for districts and voluntary.
With more students now attending school in person, the spread of COVID-19 remains a concern. In addition to cleaning and other protocols, some districts are now including testing with the help of the state.
"Any testing is good for our community," said Houston's Chief Medical Officer and Health Authority, Dr. David Persse.
Dr. Persse said testing is crucial in preventing the virus from spreading. His concern, though, is there may not be a lot of tests to go around at all of the schools.
"When it comes down to per school, and you consider their population, they'll be getting a shipment once a month, we'll have to wait and see. But, my fear is that there may not be a whole lot of tests per campus," said Dr. Persse.
Here's how the program works. Once a school system is approved, the state will send them monthly testing kits and PPE. How much they get is based on total student and staff count, along with the area's hospitalization rate. The city of Houston's Health Department is working with districts on their needs and how best to proceed with the program. Overall, Dr. Persse says it's good to add more testing and if your child doesn't get tested at school there are other options.
"We still have ample testing capacity at our regular testing sites, so if somebody wants to get tested and they can't, for example, get it done at the school for whatever reason, your neighborhood testing sites, they've got lots of capacity," said Dr. Persse.
Dr. Persse said it's also important to be strategic about all testing.
"We need to be thoughtful about how we use the test and each community is going to be a little bit different from the next. So in the end, I think it's all a good thing. It's time for us now to do our homework and come up with the best idea," said Dr. Persse.
The Texas Education Agency says more than 612,000 tests have been requested and close to 250,000 have been distributed to school systems.
Houston ISD also released the following statement regarding the rapid testing program:
Houston ISD has opted-in for the COVID-19 Rapid Testing pilot program and will receive its first allotment of the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Rapid Test kits on Thursday, Nov. 5. Once the district and its Health and Medical team identify safe and effective testing processes and protocols, and ensure all test administrators are properly trained, the kits will be distributed to campuses.
List of schools offering rapid COVID-19 tests:
- Pearland ISD
- Humble ISD
- Cy-Fair ISD
- Alief ISD
- Waller ISD
- Spring Branch ISD