JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Thousands of rapid COVID-19 tests are starting to arrive at schools across the state of Missouri after districts applied for the antigen tests from the state education department.
The Abbott BinaxNow rapid antigen test can show a person’s results in just 15 minutes, which the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said having the ability to use that rapid test could help keep students and teachers in the classroom.
DESE said the initial round of test shipments are headed to school districts and private schools this week.
The state of Missouri is expected to receive1.84 million rapid antigen testing kits which are headed to long-term care facilities, higher education institutions, with a million of the tests headed to K-12 education.
“These are minimally invasive nasal swab test,” said Mallory McGowin, communications director for DESE. “To be able in just 15 minutes to know that if this student’s runny nose or this staff member’s mild headache is COVID or something else, we think it could be really instrumental for our schools.”
McGowin said all districts who applied for the rapid test were approved. She said DESE hopes this will help address mitigation strategies in schools.
“We have 330 districts or private schools that have applied to participate,” McGowin said. “We have one final step in this process and that’s to make sure that the people administering the test know how to accurately report those positive and negative test results.”
All test results will be reported to the Department of Health and Senior Services within 24 hours of the test being administered.
“The test works very much like a home pregnancy test,” McGowin said. “It’s very easy for the user to read those results and have them so quickly.”
McGowin said the test must be administered by a health professional.
“These tests are for use among symptomatic individuals in our schools and these tests must be administered by a medical professional,” McGowin said. “Other school districts have developed a partnership with their local health department or another medical provider in the community to assist in performing those tests.”
One of the districts that applied, Columbia Public Schools, a district with more than 20,000 students and staff. The school said in a statement to our Missouri Chief Capitol Bureau Reporter Wednesday.
“The district will be receiving a little more than 20,000 rapid test kits. We are currently working on our procedures and timelines for how the tests will be made available. Testing will be drive-up and administered by a nurse. We hope to be able to begin making tests available to those who may need or want to be tested as early as next week.”
But what does this rapid test cost the state and school districts?
“Maybe even more important than providing these tests to schools and providing them the opportunity to have an on-site rapid testing like this is the fact that we were able to do so free of charge,” McGowin said. “The only costs that would be incurred by a local school district or private school would be if there was an infectious waste disposal plan that’s not already in place that needs to be added.”
McGowin said schools must have the parents’ consent before testing their student at schools. Employees of the school also must give consent before they are tested.
DESE hopes to reopen the application process soon for more schools to apply since only 583,000 tests were requested by schools. At present, there are 240,000 test kits available in the state’s inventory to distribute to K-12 schools.
“There are obviously more tests than in our allotment and so that’s why we think we will be able to open the application window again,” McGowin said.