Masks, face shields and hybrid schedules are not the only changes returning students face this fall. Many, including New York City students, will encounter random COVID-19 testing and screening.
To help students cope with pandemic-related stress, some districts have incorporated social-emotional learning (SEL) taught by psychologists and social workers.
Several Long Island school superintendents and Mobile Health CEO Andrew Shulman recently discussed the challenges of reopening schools. Their conversation took place during Heart of the East End on WLIW Radio 88.3 FM, hosted by Gianna Volpe. Shulman shared perspectives on expanding COVID-19 screening and testing into schools and universities.
Just like classrooms and learning, COVID-19 testing must be designed to make everyone comfortable and ease their concerns, Shulman explained. “We help schools evaluate testing options and put a plan in place that is easy to implement, sustain and pay for.”
Gateway Testing for Schools
Shulman described a Mobile Health ‘Gateway Testing’ program underway in a large New York school system. In this program, Mobile Health provided ‘gold-standard’ PCR molecular testing for all returning students and staff. The occupational health provider then conducted weekly monitoring by sampling 5 percent of the school population with rapid antigen testing. This would help to ensure there were no trends or outbreaks. Also, Mobile Health makes available Point of Care COVID-19 tests to the schools should the need arise.
Meanwhile, New York City schools began random COVID-19 testing among staff and students this month. The city’s testing partners will visit district schools every month and test a randomly selected group of staff and students from grades 1-12. The number of people tested will depend on the size of the school.
2021 Testing Outlook
Asked to describe the 2021 testing outlook, Shulman said more companies are delving into testing and creating inexpensive options. Consequently, he expects more testing options by year’s end, and speculated that an inexpensive daily test, combined with masks and social distancing, could provide comfort against exposures until a vaccine is approved.
Ultimately, the educators and Shulman agreed that whether implementing learning or testing, schools must remain fluid, and be prepared to pivot when necessary.
“We’ve opened the doors, and are taking one careful step at a time,” said Hampton Bays Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. “If we can keep everyone healthy and connected, then the school year is off and running.
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- Point of Care PCR Testing (Results in 30 minutes)
- Point of Care Antigen Testing (Results in 15 minutes)
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