How in-depth dashboard data is helping schools combat COVID
With the delta variant surge complicating the new school year, regular COVID testing remains one of the most effective ways to keep students healthy and classrooms open, experts say.
There were only 17 positives during regular testing of among the 10,000 tests conducted at Friendship Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C., in the 2020-21 school year, according to system CEO Pat Brantley. “Testing was instrumental in reopening, and in giving families and teachers confidence,” she says.”That helped us to stay open.”
The asymptomatic weekly testing included rapid tests for students and PCR tests for adults.
Brantley and her leadership used a pair of digital COVID dashboards to manage their COVID response. One dashboard, which the school developed, monitored testing and cases. The second dashboard, , developed by Mathematica, allows schools to compare the potential effectiveness of different testing strategies
The dashboards helped the school understand where and when to tighten up safety procedures and prevented administrators from having to collate information from several different sources, she says.
Her team was also able to compare their system’s data to other users’ dashboards to spot regional and national trends more quickly.
“When we got reports from our families, students and adults, there were anecdotally lower cases of infection for kids and staff in school than for those who remained home,” she says.
The dashboard also allows administrators to compare the effectiveness of various testing strategies, says Divya Vohra, a senior researcher at Mathematica. For example, high sensitivity made pooled PCR testing the best strategy in communities experiencing high COVID transmission rates, Vohra says.
Another lesson from testing last year is that schools need financial, operational and logistical support from community organizations and government agencies to conduct effective testing. Schools can use COVID relief fundings to pay for testing, she adds.