Some Valley schools part of rapid self-COVID test program

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A pilot program to test for COVID-19 is helping several local schools reopen with confidence and help prevent outbreaks on campus.

This as more school districts across the state work to reopen and get teachers and support staff vaccinated, there is now a push underway to regularly test employees and students for COVID-19.

"We see that rapid COVID testing is an incredible resource to helping get schools open," said California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond.

McSwain Elementary in Merced County is already using rapid self-testing for COVID. Staff members and students with parental permission are tested twice a week through a pilot program that's funded by the California Endowment.

"With the layers of protocols and safety measures, mask-wearing and everything else, the one safety measure that really gives us an immediate reaction to whether you are potentially a COVID positive person is the antigen test," said McSwain Superintendent Roy Mendiola.

The program was initially rolled out at just a handful of districts statewide.

Fresno Unified is also partnering with the California Endowment to begin the rapid testing once students are welcomed back to campus next month.

"With a district as large as us, we want to do it at a phased-in approach so obviously, we can't ramp up all 68 elementary schools on the same day, so we'll spread that out and eventually have everyone on board," said Fresno Unified Director of Health Services Jane Banks.

Fresno Unified administrators are still working on the final details for what the program will look like, but student athletes in the district are already taking part in weekly testing.

"We're already piloting another option, actually several other options that we can use for our athletic teams in order for them to compete. And we're partnering with United Health Centers," said Banks.

Under the current pilot program all students, teachers and staff are tested twice a week with FDA approved rapid antigent testing which is said to give accurate results within 15 minutes.

Fresno Unified is the third largest school district in California with 74,000 students.
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