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Lee County school district details its COVID-19 rapid testing of staff, students

The School District of Lee County has reached agreements with Lee Health and Lee County to use 2,000 COVID-19 rapid testing kits provided by the state of Florida.

Parents say they’re on board, but they’re concerned that children who test negative still have to quarantine for 10 days.

The district hopes the tests last for a while because they’re not sure when they’ll get more. Only symptomatic staff and students will be tested for now, according to Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins, with staff from Golisano Children’s Hospital traveling to schools to administer the tests. Results take 15 minutes.

“If we are able to get these kids tested and we know that we have a definite positive case, that can reduce exposure and ultimately reduce the number of kids that have to be quarantined,” Adkins said.

Parent Lisa Braga likes that. “It’s great that they are doing that. They should have been doing the test way before. That would help a lot of kids, a lot of parents.”

Commissioner Brian Hamman said the county has made a lot of difficult decisions during the pandemic, but testing in schools “was an easy decision.”

Beth Wipf, Nursing Services coordinator, said three tests were given Wednesday morning, but she did not specify if those tested were staff or students.

The rapid testing process starts when a student is sent to the isolation room because they have symptoms. Staff have a rubric that goes over which symptoms are considered more high risk. If they meet the criteria for the test, parents will be called. They will have to sign a waiver and be present for the test. Golisano staff comes to the school to administer the test. If the person tests positive, the Department of Health is contacted and contact tracing starts. A positive student will go home to quarantine until they are better and without symptoms.

Maggie Goldsmith said she’d agree to have her son tested, but worries about the safety of the isolation rooms.

“If my kid goes in and he didn’t have COVID but now is he at risk because the person in that room before him did have COVID?” she questioned.

Here’s the part that troubles a lot of parents: Even if the test comes back negative, their child still has to quarantine.

Goldsmith wonders if the tests really will be a game changer. “Does it make me feel more comfortable? No. Does it make me feel less comfortable? No.”

School leaders believe parents will say “yes” when they see how faster contact tracing will help keep their kids in class.

Wipf said they aren’t seeing a link between positive cases and exposure in schools. Data is showing that infections are occurring elsewhere.

The DOH said an app will be released in about a week that will let people do their own contact tracing.

Watch a replay of Wednesday’s news conference below or click here.

In attendance were:

  • Dr. Greg Adkins, superintendent
  • Dr. Larry Antonucci, Lee Health
  • Kevin Ruane, Lee County commissioner
  • Jennifer Roth, Florida Department of Health – Lee County
  • Beth Wipf, Nursing Services coordinator
  • Alyssa Bostwick, Golisano Children’s Hospital of SWFL
  • Dr. Stephanie Stovall, Golisano Children’s Hospital of SWFL

Writer:WINK News
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