Giving Compass' Take:

• Peter S. Hussey and John J. Rydzewski discuss strategies for bolstering COVID-19 testing capabilities in order to streamline safe school reopenings.

• What will it take to implement bolstered COVID-19 testing strategies across the United States? How can you help fund opportunities to create widespread availability for COVID-19 testing in schools?

• Find resources that support efforts to bolster COVID-19 safety.

Safely reopening K–12 schools for in-person instruction requires complicated protocols ranging from symptom monitoring to physical distancing, as well as containment of coronavirus transmission in the community. Widespread screening for asymptomatic carriers of the virus is not currently part of most school protocols, even though children and adults without symptoms may play a role in viral transmission. It may be time to plan for making screening tests a standard component for safe school reopening, in conjunction with other public health measures such as mask-wearing, sanitation, and physical distancing.

Shortages of diagnostic tests and long turnaround times have captured most of the attention on coronavirus tests. But low-cost, rapid tests, many of which do not require a lab for analysis, could increasingly become available in coming weeks. Although they may produce more “false negative” results than gold-standard molecular tests, repeated testing could identify most carriers.

The primary barrier to screening test programs is likely to be the complexity of developing and implementing protocols. States could help by providing guidance covering the four key components of a screening testing program.

First, assist schools in procurement of rapid tests.

Second, develop an easy-to-apply framework to allow diverse school districts to select an appropriate testing protocol.

Third, create resources to help schools manage the testing information. 

Fourth, monitor results continuously. 

With government, foundation, and/or industry support, the coordinated development of these steps could be achievable. Schools could have priority, but screening tests might also benefit other sectors that implement similar models. While the testing technology log jam is being cleared, state policymakers and school leaders could begin planning now to draft, pilot, and evaluate protocols for reopening schools that incorporate rapid testing.

Read the full article about bolstering COVID-19 testing in schools by Peter S. Hussey and John J. Rydzewski at RAND Corporation.