As many Seniors return to school for four days a week this Monday, March 1st, pooled testing could become a useful tool to identify COVID-19 cases at LHS. Recently, the school’s application for pooled testing was approved by the state and the school has been partnered with a vendor. Pooled testing would allow LHS to test efficiently and cost effectively. Since the town clinic recently learned that the state would not supply them with vaccines, Dr. Marty O’Shea, Superintendent, expects that they will begin to help with this endeavor to implement pooled testing into schools.
Once a week, a group of 20-25 students or teachers who consent self-swab with an instructional medical kit. Their individual molecular tests would be put into a single pool, and from there would be sent to the lab for testing. Results would come between 24 to 48 hours. If the pooled test returns positive, every individual pooled would take a rapid test and quarantine until they find out who is positive.
Despite the benefits, there are many logistics to consider. For example, LHS would need a substantial amount of teachers and students to consent. Interestingly, the rollout of pooled testing and vaccines are occurring at the same time. Therefore, if teachers were to receive the vaccine, testing would be unnecessary for them. Furthermore, the operation of pooled testing would require students, teachers, and administrators to be trained. Contact tracing is another point of concern as Dr. O’Shea stated, “I would be reluctant to do it if it were to result in unnecessary or excessively quarantining too many students. We need to understand how quickly we can turn this around from the point that we collect the nasal swabs to the point that we identify the positive case in the pool. If that takes too long, then we need to think more critically about pooled testing.”
As of now, Dr. O’Shea states that they are still in the “exploratory phase.” Although this may be helpful to safely maintain in-person learning, Dr. O’Shea says that “it is not a solution to educating in the middle of the pandemic. It’s just another strategy for us, it’s another way to mitigate the effects of the virus, another tool in the tool bag potentially.”