BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts is set to begin a COVID rapid test program that will allow students and staff to be tested if they are showing symptoms.
Phase 1 of the program will begin in early December in 134 school districts, charter schools, and special education collaboratives.
The tests are for schools that have any form of in-person learning.
Parents must sign off to allow their child to be tested. When a student’s rapid test comes back positive it is not treated as a confirmed test, but instead indicates the student requires a PCR test.
Sec. of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said the Abbott rapid tests were able to successfully detect COVID-19 in children and young people 79% of the time, and adults 97% of the time, if they had reported symptoms within the last week.
“Some people may experience the onset of symptoms while at school,” said Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley. “The Abbott tests will allow schools and districts to rapidly respond to these types of situations. By testing students and teachers and getting results within minutes, we will be able to identify infected individuals and their close contacts more quickly, and to help stop the spread.”
Test kits will be provided to schools at no cost on a voluntary basis in an effort to continue allowing students to learn in person.
Gov. Charlie Baker said it’s important to do everything possible to serve kids in person learning.
“If you talk to almost anybody in the pediatric community, they’ll tell you that the consequences – the very negative, very real, and in some cases sustained consequences – of the isolation and lack of rhythm, and the lack of socialization, and the lack of engagement with their peers and with their teachers on a regular basis is an enormous public health threat and potential calamity,” said Gov. Baker.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association would like to see the program expand quickly to allow for regular testing in all schools.
“This is a step in the right direction, but it still isn’t enough,” said Merrie Najimy President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. “The governor’s measures are reactive, we are calling for proactive frequent measures including testing asymptomatic people so that we can catch the virus before it goes out of control,” Najimy added.