Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is launching a pilot program to deploy COVID-19 testing in K-12 public schools to quickly identify students and staff who may have the virus to help slow its spread.
Local education agencies including public school districts, charter school networks or individual charter schools currently offering any in-person instruction — either Plan A or Plan B — are eligible to apply. Selected pilot sites will receive federally funded rapid antigen tests to be used for students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms or who are close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
“Having rapid tests available in our schools in another important tool to both slow the spread of the virus and keep our children in the classroom. With increased community spread, these tests add to the other safety protocols in place at K-12 schools to protect our students, teachers and staff,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy K. Cohen.
To apply for the program, local education agencies must submit a readiness checklist for each participating school to their local health department. The checklist confirms that a school can meet the program’s requirements, including obtaining parental/guardian consent prior to testing, maintaining adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, having trained personnel to administer tests or partnering with a local health provider, and reporting test results to state and local public health agencies. Following review of the readiness checklists, the local health department then submits the application to NCDHHS on behalf of the local education agency.
Pilot applications are due Dec. 8, 2020.
NCDHHS will select pilot sites based on the pool of eligible applicants. NCDHHS will deliver the rapid tests to pilot sites at no cost to the sites as soon as Dec. 14, 2020.
The pilot will use the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test card, which uses a nasal swab to detect COVID-19 and provides results in 15 minutes without laboratory processing. The swab must be performed by trained personnel.
More information on the COVID-19 testing pilot for K-12 Schools is available at https://www.nc.gov/covid-19/k-12-education-covid-19-resources.