ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — More than 100 rapid COVID testing machines were delivered to schools throughout Monroe County on Wednesday.
The PCR testing machines may be small, but they can provide a big benefit to schools, students and their families.
“We’ve been working for weeks knowing that this is a problem that many in our community are feeling…the desire to get kids back to school as efficiently and safely as possible,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza.
Dr. Mendoza said 110 tests went out to schools on Wednesday and have continued to be in high demand.
“We made an open invitation to all schools, public, private, charter, and we need to be equitable, recognizing that every school has different circumstances and different capacities. We looked at the population of schools, we looked at a distribution between the city and the suburbs, trying to be as equitable as possible,” he said.
The testing kits are a game changer for schools, allowing students to get tested within minutes, without having to leave school.
“Sometimes trying to get ahold of parents and having them come pick up their kids and get them tested is much more involved than my swabbing a student and then I can rule out COVID and then they can stay in school,” said Louise Moore, a registered nurse at School 17.
Moore said the kits are “really, really simple” to use and involve a quick Nasal swab that older students are able to do themselves.
The swab is then put into a solution. Then some of the solution is put in a cassette, which is then put in a testing machine.
“After 30 minutes you pull the cassette out and it has a little blue line, has a little control blue line, and then if there’s another blue line just below that, that means it’s positive. So far, I have not had anybody positive,” Moore said.
The rapid tests are sometimes hard to come by at places like CVS and Walgreens, but now students can get tested without having to leave school grounds.
“Parents have actually called and said, ‘Would you mind doing a COVID test?’ So we have the ability to meet the needs of the parents if they’re concerned about their child,” Moore said. “For a lot of our parents, they don’t have transportation, they don’t have a way to come and pick up their kids, sometimes they don’t have phone numbers that work.”
She added these tests also help keep kids in school learning in-person, which is their main job.
“If we can rule out COVID, which is of course everybody’s concern, then we don’t have to send the children home,” Moore said. “Obviously if they have a fever or they’re throwing up or there’s something else that would merit an early dismissal is one thing, but at least this way we can rule out COVID.”
However, health experts also remind parents if you’re child feels sick, it’s best to keep them home.
“If you have symptoms, if you’re concerned as a parent, these tests are not the only thing to consider. We want you to reach out to your health care provider and make sure that your loved one is truly healthy and safe to go to school,” Dr. Mendoza said.
Before a school tests a student, they do need parental permission. If a student tests negative, Moore said they’re giving a form that let’s their parents know. Results are also documented through a form with the county health department.
Currently testing is only available for students K-12. The hope is to provide the testing to staff in the future as well. PCR rapid testing is also available at the Fleet Center on Paul Road for K-12 students. This is drive-thru testing.