BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts has developed a rapid testing response program that will be available for schools if there are signs of a potential cluster developing among students and teachers.
“Currently, this program can be deployed to test students within a particular classroom or other groups,” Baker said. “A local health department and the Department of Public Health at the state level will work with a local school district to determine certain conditions are met, and that this program should be deployed.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders laid out some of the minimal conditions that will apply for a town to qualify for the mobile response. Among the criteria:
- Two or more students or staff within the classroom group develop COVID-19 within a 14-day period and transmission exposure appear to have occurred in the classroom.
- More than 3% of the cohort or grade, which means at least three individuals, develops COVID-19 within 14 days.
- More than 3% of the school develops COVID-19 within 14 days, and there’s evidence of transmission within school.
- Three or more staff members within the same school develop COVID-19 within a 14-day period and there’s evidence of transmission among staff.
- Two or more students on the bus develop COVID-19 within 14 days.
“As with everything that’s COVID-related, there is no silver bullet. We must use every tool that’s available to continue to contain the virus,” Baker said.
UMass Memorial Doctor Angela Beeler says testing is important, but that parents will also want to see what schools are doing to keep the buildings COVID free.
“I think that’s what a lot of parents are worried, how do we prevent this in the first place,” said UMass Memorial Dr. Angela Beeler.
Educators still have some concerns. “Even in a hybrid model I would be seeing 45 different students every single day,” special education teacher Kathryn Anderson said. “Knowing that the virus takes two weeks to show up, it feels like that’s a responsive measure not a preventive measure.”
The Massachusetts Teachers Association said the rapid testing isn’t enough.
“Because the educators’ unions are shining a bright light on what a safe return to in-person learning requires, Governor Baker is finally acknowledging the necessity of having rapid COVID-19 testing available to students and educators. The plan he unveiled today still falls short. COVID-19 testing must be widespread, frequent, easily accessible and free to all students and staff – and not limited just to cohorts where there are signs of concern. Like much of what Governor Baker has promoted for schools, his testing plan recklessly creates false confidence. We need to be able to reopen public schools in a manner that prevents the spread of the coronavirus, and Governor Baker’s plan does not accomplish that,” MTA President Merrie Najimy said in a statement.