School officials are urgently looking for the best ways to keep students and staff safe as schools reopen in the face of the surging Delta variant which is causing 99% of new COVID-19 cases reported in all 50 states. In addition, there has been a four-fold increase in the number of children with COVID with the situation expected to get worse as the winter approaches.
The need for expanded COVID testing for both students and faculty is undeniable. But the need is more than simply acquiring test kits. An optimal solution must support appropriate onboarding and eligibility, scheduling, test distribution, validation of results, and aggregate reporting. What is required is a scalable solution that embodies a structured, integrated, end-to-end process that delivers more than just bulk testing supplies.
Currently, only children 12-17 can be immunized, leaving the highly transmissible Delta variant a challenge for younger children, although Pfizer now says that its vaccine is safe and effective in children 5-11. While studies show that the vaccines are highly effective against the variant for all age groups, their efficacy rate isn’t 100% and there is risk of vaccine breakthrough cases.
These concerns, coupled with lower-than-expected vaccination rates and the need for booster injections for those already vaccinated against COVID-19, are fueling the need for schools to ”test often” as a key to stopping the virus spread among students and staff.
Many school districts are mandating testing, For example, the Atlanta Public Schools recently announced that all employees must be tested twice a week for COVID-19 starting after Labor Day. The district says the extra step will help protect students and staff.
In California, testing in K-12 schools “remains a powerful tool” for preventing transmission of COVID, according to state public health authorities. The state is offering free tests for all public, charter and private schools in California.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- As schools go back to in-person learning, many offer free, regular COVID-19 testing for students and staff.
- Regular testing, along with COVID-19 vaccination, helps protect students, staff, family members, and others who are not currently vaccinated against COVID-19 or are otherwise at risk for getting seriously sick from COVID-19.
- Testing programs help keep students in the classroom and allow them to take part in the other activities they love.
Using the right solution as a preventive strategy to help schools stay safe
Currently, there are many sources for COVID-testing available to the school community but not all solutions are the same.
The US Department of Health and Human Services hosted a competition attracting hundreds of solutions and identified one dozen platforms suitable for COVID-19 that provided optimal testing methodologies, essential data management and results. Twelve solutions were selected to collaborate directly with the FDA during the pandemic.
Here’s what distinguishes a best-of-breed testing solution for at-home and on-site COVID testing:
- Provides a structured, end-to-end process that delivers more than just bulk testing supplies
- Meets all regulatory requirements (including FDA and OSHA) for employees’ safe return-to-work and participation in crucial meetings, events and conventions
- Offers front-end intake via a secure web portal access to capture registration, identity and information
- Tethers eligibility to test distribution and administration
- Immediacy of real-time results — 20-25 minutes
- Provides monitoring, tracking and back-end reporting
- Ensures easy access to physicians – anytime — via message-based or video interactions
- Assures transparent and competitive pricing
The optimal COVID-19 testing solution must be safe, customizable and compliant. Ideally, it should also readily integrate within an organization’s broader health and wellness strategy, be positioned to work with any primary physician, and feature a simple design that is accessible and easy to use. The right solution will ensure a safe return to the classroom as the Delta variant rages across the U.S. and children under 12 remain unvaccinated.
Michael Gorton is CEO and founder of Recuro Health and founding CEO and chairman of Teledoc.
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