While pool testing for COVID-19 has been effective in some areas, it was recently decided that the Longmeadow Public Schools will not be continuing to use it.
Pool testing is a system in which groups of people participate in a combined test for COVID-19. This testing process consists of three stages. First, each person takes an individual test and then tests are combined into pools. If a specific pool tests positive, each person in that pool is required to receive a binaxNOW rapid test. If the binaxNOW test yields positive results, the final step is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. If the PCR test is positive, the person will be required to quarantine for two weeks. There will also be contact tracing to ensure that anyone who was in contact with them will get tested and have to quarantine as well.
There are both advantages and drawbacks to this pool testing. Longmeadow administration and health officials worry about the timeline of this extensive process, “I think what we’re concerned about here, especially in Western Mass, is the turnaround time,” superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea explains. The accuracy of the binaxNOW test is also a factor to take into consideration while measuring the effectiveness of this pool testing method.
Furthermore, pool testing requires consent from many families in the school district to allow their children to participate. However, Dr. O’Shea says, ¨Certainly the willingness of our families to seek out and access PCR testing has been really helpful and beneficial to us to make sure we are able to avoid any in-school transmission.¨
“I think the bottom line for us is that our needs here locally, given our trends and given our numbers don’t really match the efficacy of the program or the outcomes that we would want,” Dr. O’Shea states.
Fire Department Chief John Dearborn adds, “I don’t see the value at this point.”