Pool Testing Pilot Program to Expand This Week at RPS

At a recent Revere Public School Committee Webinar, Bill Jacobson, the head of the state’s “pool testing” program, went over the current COVID-19 pool testing pilot program at Revere schools that will become fully implemented this week.

The volunteer program is a first-in-the-nation pooled testing initiative in schools in Revere and across the Commonwealth. The test is performed at least once per week on an anterior nasal swab, and results are delivered within 24 hours.

Jacobson explained if a pooled test result is nega-tive, then all individuals within that pool are presumed negative and may continue to remain in school; however, if a pooled test result is positive, then everyone in the pool is given an individual diagnostic test.

Once positive individuals are identified, they must follow CDC isolation guidance. Students, teachers, and staff that were close contacts of the positive individual must also quarantine according to current requirements.

“Pool testing involves five to 10 people who are not showing any signs of symptoms of COVID and are otherwise healthy,” said Jacobson. “Each individual being tested performs a mega-shallow nasal swab test. A result of either positive or negative is the result for that entire pool. Since this is not down to the individual level this is called ‘assurance’ or ‘surveillance’ testing and it has many advantages when you’re trying to test a larger population.”

Jacobson said on the day of testing, participants are divided up into groups of up to 10. Each of those students or people in a group will put their sample into a collection. Those samples are taken to the lab, and they’re analyzed. Typically within 24 hours the results are given. In the case that there is a positive pool, then follow-up individual tests are performed on each of the participants in that pool.

Last week, the Baker-Polito Administration released the first statewide results of the pilot pool-testing pro-gram.

Gov. Charlie Baker said the data collected from its statewide pooled testing initiative found low positivity rates – far less than 1 percent – among students and staff.

Launched in February Massachusetts schools have tested nearly 159,000 individuals in 22,679 pools with a pool positivity rate of 0.76 percent to date. Because the aver-age pool included seven people, individual prevalence among those tested is well below that number.

Of the collected pooled tests, Massachusetts is not aware of any in which there was more than one positive individual, suggesting that there is extremely little evidence of in-school transmission of COVID-19 in the state.

“Massachusetts’ robust and ambitious program offering COVID-19 surveillance testing to all schools, char-ters, and special education collaboratives led the nation,” said Gov. Baker. “The science is clear that it is safe for kids to be in the classrooms, and this initiative has proved to serve as an invaluable tool for schools through-out the Commonwealth as they return to in-person learning.”

However, Jacobson said it was important to mention that pool testing was just another ‘layer’ of protection in keeping the virus from spreading through the city.

“Testing is one of a number of different mitigations (against COVID),” said Jacobson. “So masks and face coverings, reducing group interactions, having kids stay home when they are sick are all part of the process. What testing does is provide the assurance that there will not be an outbreak. We will catch it before it spreads to other people. That, hopefully, makes the whole community of students, parents and educators feel confident in a return to in-person learning programs.”  If you would like to register for free pooled testing at RPS please sign up at: https://tinyurl.com/RPSPooledTestingStudents

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