BOSTON, MA — The Baker-Polito Administration announced last week two rapid response testing initiatives for schools to address potential clusters of COVID-19 cases among students, teachers or staff at a school building.
School officials, after consultation with public health authorities, will be able to request a state-sponsored mobile testing unit come to their school to test a group of students and/or staff if a potential cluster of COVID-19 has been identified and transmission appears to have occurred within the school. This resource is available to both public and private schools.
Before making a request, school administrators should consult with public health authorities first to determine if a request for mobile testing should be made.
The mobile rapid response unit will provide free testing of asymptomatic students or staff, who are not known to be a close contact of someone who tested positive, when there is evidence that COVID-19 transmission may have occurred within a classroom or school within the past 14 days. After consulting with an epidemiologist from the Department of Public Health, a school administrator or the local board of health can request a mobile rapid response unit be deployed by the COVID-19 Command Response Center.
Anyone under the age of 18 must have written permission from their parent or legal guardian to receive testing.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health will release detailed guidance in the coming weeks on how and when testing can be requested, as well as testing and result protocols.
The mobile response team may be deployed if the following minimal conditions apply:
- Two or more students/staff within the classroom group develop COVID-19 within 14 days, and transmission/exposure occurred in the classroom;
- More than 3 percent of the cohort/grade (at least 3 individuals) develop COVID-19 within 14 days, and transmission/exposure occurred in the school;
- More than 3 percent of the school develops COVID-19 within 14 days, and there is evidence of transmission within the school;
- Three or more staff within the same school develop COVID-19 within 14 days, and there is evidence of transmission among the staff; or
- Two or more students on the bus develop COVID-19 within 14 days.
In addition to the mobile testing unit, the Administration will extend the Stop the Spread initiative through September 30 in certain communities with higher rates of COVID-19 to help cities and towns as students begin to return to school.
The Stop the Spread initiative was launched on July 10. It is a data-driven initiative and currently provides free testing in 20 communities that have high rates of COVID-19.
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