SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri K-12 schools can now sign up for another COVID-19 mitigation strategy.
Pooled COVID-19 testing is being offered to try to catch COVID, especially asymptomatic cases, in schools early.
State health leaders say, students and teachers, who agree to participate, would test themselves for the virus weekly inside the classroom.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced a partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks Inc. to provide the program.
School testing Director for Concentric by Ginko, Dr. Karen Hogan, said each person should swab each of their nostrils four times.
“Prevalence rates seem to be pretty low in classroom environments, so a great way to test efficiently in school environments is to group individuals into cohorts or pools,” said Hogan.
Hogan said the entire classroom, five to 25 people, would put their tested samples into one tube to be shipped off to test at a state lab.
“24 hours from receipt at the lab, a school can expect to get an answer on whether or not that group has SARS-CoV-2 presence or not,” said Hogan.
She said if the tests return positive, follow-up testing must be done to determine the positive individual.
Whether the follow-up testing is through a rapid test, or students must quarantine until the results are returned, Hogan said is usually up to local health authorities.
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Officials said the program is free to the school district through federal American Rescue Plan funds and supplies are provided.
Chief Communications Officer for DESE, Mallory McGowin, said regular and screening testing for COVID-19 is an important strategy inside the classroom.
“There’s not a whole lot that we can all agree on when it comes to COVID, but the thing we can agree on is in-person learning is what’s best for our students,” McGowin said.
Enrollment for the program recently began.
Leaders from both Springfield and Nixa Public Schools responded to our questions on whether they will implement this new program. Both districts said they don’t currently plan to sign up. State leaders said they want school officials to learn more about the program in the coming weeks.