Wake County seeks to begin voluntary COVID-19 testing performed in schools

Wake County News

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Wake County students could soon get COVID-19 tests at school.

Tuesday afternoon, school board and district leaders held a meeting to discuss ways to combat clusters and outbreaks of COVID-19 in classrooms.

“The best way to minimize quarantines and minimize spread is layering our strategies around masking. Of course, we’re already doing universal masking, and pushing vaccinations and also using testing,” said Keith Sutton, Wake County School Board Chair.

Sutton told CBS 17 that none of the strategies work perfectly on their own, but the combination is key to keeping COVID case counts down in schools.

“It gives us helpful information, particularly if you have a positive case. [It also] keeps that positive case out of the building,” he explained. “It’s kind of a proactive step.”

Under the current plan, the district will partner with Mako Medical, a state vendor, to do the testing and results notification.

The voluntary testing program would roll out in three phases.

Phase one would include testing at schools just with active or potential COVID clusters. They want to launch the program, focusing on schools that have the highest case counts and exposure rates.

District leaders want to start that phase in early November.

Phase two would add testing to more schools.

Phase three would require testing for all staff members.

The goal is by 2022, every school would have on-site COVID-19 testing capabilities.

Kay Greenland said she thinks it’s a good start.

“I’m supportive of it,” she explained. “I would rather have that it was mandatory.”

Greenland has children at Banks Road Elementary School and Holly Grove Middle School.

She’s concerned that some parents won’t give permission for their kids to get the test.

“If there’s a COVID cluster discovered, then everybody should get tested as soon as they walk through the door,” she said. “Everyone used to have their temperature taken when they walked in.”

But making it mandatory, isn’t so easy to do.

“It adds another layer of complexity. We feel like we want to get this moving and implemented as soon as possible,” said Sutton. “Voluntary testing would allow us to do that.”

The voluntary testing would be pool-based.

If someone in the pool tests positive, additional testing would be needed in order to ensure proper quarantining and protocols are followed.

The pool method allows the district and the county health department to get an idea of the trends and exposures rates inside of classrooms at each school.

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