A partnership will allow Missouri to regularly test teachers and students for COVID-19 in the coming months, with the aim of anticipating any potential spikes.
Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said testing is optional and participating districts are currently being sought.
“It’s another great mitigation strategy, just another tool out there,” she said during a visit to a Springfield school on Monday.
The Missouri Department of Health and Elderly Services on Friday announced a partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks Inc. to provide “bundle testing” starting this month. The contract runs until the end of January.
“It’s a pooling. Everyone takes the test, they throw it into one thing and if it comes back and everyone is negative then you don’t really need to go into further study. “she said. “But, if it comes back that you start to have some positive results, then you are definitely going to try and get people to repeat the test.”
The policy uses the snapshot provided by “pooled testing” to identify cases with the goal of limiting or reducing the spread.
“If you look at how the virus spreads, they’re talking about the ripple effect. You have to stop that ripple effect,” Vandeven said. “This pooling helps us do that, so we hope the schools will benefit from it. “
The funding comes from federal bailout funds through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has allocated $ 10 billion to states and territories for school testing.
Missouri is expected to receive $ 185 million to “detect, diagnose, trace and monitor COVID-19 and prevent its spread” in schools.
Under the contract between DHSS and the company, the state will provide $ 762,000 in federal funding per month for basic support services, as well as the cost of tests, supplies and lab work.
Prices are locked in, but the exact amount of effort will depend on usage.
Currently, the company is recruiting districts interested in testing and identifying staff and students who wish to participate. They must sign consent forms for the test, which will be provided to them free of charge.
The company should set up on-site testing days with each participating district and provide personnel and supplies if the “pooled testing” indicates that individual follow-up testing is needed.
The number of participating districts is not yet known. Springfield has not opted for the moment.
Superintendent Grenita Lathan, at the same event with Vandeven, said the district had offered free testing for COVID-19 and would continue.
“We will continue to offer our sites as a place where people can take tests, including our staff, students and families,” said Lathan.
Vandeven acknowledged that the testing option, like other safeguards such as masking, may have its detractors.
“I’m pretty confident people will have mixed emotions about whether or not we should be doing these things,” Vandeven said. “People … have strong positions on either side of these mitigation strategies.”
Claudette Riley is the News-Leader educational journalist. Email tips to [email protected]