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CCS opting into random COVID-19 testing program

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 9:16 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville City Schools is opting into an optional state testing program which includes random group testing for coronavirus.

“What this program brings to bear is a concept called screening testing, which means that we’re testing asymptomatic people - people who are not sick or don’t have a known exposure - on a regular basis,” Deputy Director of the Office of Epidemiology at Virginia Department of Health Dr. Laurie Forlano said. “What that’s intended to do is try to catch those outbreaks earlier than we would otherwise.”

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, the entire group is retested.

“We can pick a school a week, or a couple schools a week or whatever we really feel like is most appropriate, and also we have to look at where our consents are. We will not be doing this program with anybody who has not provided a consent,” CCS Interim Director of HR and Student Services and Achievement Beth Baptist said.

Once vendors are in place to administer the tests, the program can get started.

“We’re looking for vendors to conduct what we call pooled testing in schools with follow up testing, that’s where we combine samples from multiple people, they’re tested as one,” Dr. Forlano said.

Albemarle County Public Schools says it is working with the Virginia Department of Health and UVA Health on testing, but does not plan to opt into this program.

“In-school transmission in ACPS, and most of the schools in the district, is extremely low,” ACPS Strategic Communications Officer Phil Giaramita said. “Even when it does occur, there are very few students who come up positive.”

“We know that testing is a great mitigation measure, and we’re doing really well with our cases in the city. I mean one case is one to many,” Baptist said. “So we just were trying to look at any mitigation measures that we can keep the numbers very low and to keep the transmission from being any higher.”

“We’ve got a lot more kids in schools. They are required to wear masks, the vaccination coverage is getting better, but it varies from county to county. So all the mitigation strategies aren’t necessarily optimized to the highest degree. So testing can be another layer that can help you find those cases earlier and prevent in school transmission,” Dr. Forlano said.

Charlottesville City Schools is waiting on consent forms and for the VDH to find someone who can help the schools administer tests. The school system hopes to get the program started by October.

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