Reopening schools must conduct surveillance testing to prevent outbreaks in Fresno County

Surveillance testing can help schools prevent outbreaks originating from people who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County schools have clearance to open, but the county will require coronavirus testing once they bring students back to campus.

Schools are starting to welcome kids back on campus after months of coronavirus closures.

The county is requiring safety plans for students, teachers, and staff members, and schools have to post the plans where everyone can see.

One element will have to be surveillance testing - checking on at least 10% of the adults at every school.

"Surveillance testing in this context means you don't have to be symptomatic, in fact you don't have any symptoms," said Fresno County health officer, Dr. Rais Vohra. "We're just trying to see what the baseline is in terms of the rates of infection."

Surveillance testing can help schools prevent outbreaks originating from people who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic.

Kids may also experience a very different Halloween this year.

The state public health director has warned against door-to-door trick or treating and the county is coming up with guidance of its own.

"If you're going to have a gathering full of people that's indoors where people aren't wearing masks then that's very, very risky," Dr. Vohra said.

But Halloween isn't canceled. Several organizations and churches -- like the Trinity Armenian Church in downtown Fresno -- are hosting Trunk or Treats where you can drive up and get treats without leaving the car so COVID can't play any tricks.

Even if the county falls back into the more restrictive 'purple tier', schools won't have to stop in-person instruction, but if cases come to campus, quarantines can also disrupt learning.

So the county will help schools get the testing done or even get them the technical support and supplies to develop their own programs for surveillance testing.

"We're optimistic that we won't see a lot of cases," Dr. Vohra said. "Technically, they're asymptomatic. By definition, these are people without symptoms because if they have symptoms, they shouldn't be working."

Schools need to get the testing completed by the first week of the month after they come back on campus.

Dr. Vohra says they'll probably add more requirements to keep tracking in the new year.
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.