ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — A new COVID-19 testing model is looking to minimize time missed from school due to quarantine. The resource-intensive approach is sometimes called “test to stay.”
It is essentially a modified quarantine that allows kids to stay in school as long as they’re tested regularly and adhere to precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Students at Marietta City Schools in Georgia who have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 have to come to school early every day for seven days and take a rapid test. As long as those tests come back negative, they’re allowed to go to class. If a test comes back positive, they have to quarantine.
Grant Rivera, the superintendent of Marietta City Schools, said he took the proposal to his contacts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other health authorities.
“I said, ‘Listen, we’ve always followed the recommended protocols. I don’t want to be reckless. I’m a former special education teacher, high school principal turned superintendent, like I don’t want to make up protocols. And I said, ‘Is this scientifically sound?’ And they said, ‘Yes.'”
The tests are free to the district, thanks to a partnership with the Georgia State Health Department. But the approach is considered resource heavy because school administrators and staff are the ones that have to administer these tests.
“Although our state and across the country, they have not yet adapted to a modified quarantine protocol, every scientist and researcher that I talked to said, ‘Yes, if the viral load is so low that it won’t trigger a rapid antigen test, you’re good to come to school that day,'” Rivera said.
Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not endorsing the approach. The agency says it needs more data before it makes any sort of recommendation.
It also says that it’s working with the districts and jurisdictions that are using the approach right now, like the one in Marietta, to gather more information so they can see if it actually works at limiting the spread of COVID-19.