School system considers COVID testing options

Dr. Wendy Jordan presents information on the viability of COVID testing to the Board of Education on Tuesday evening.

Matthew Sasser | Daily newspaper

HAMLET — The Richmond County School Board has unanimously approved a potential plan for future COVID-19 testing in the school system.

Director of Student Services Dr Wendy Jordan said they were exploring and preparing for potential testing options. RCS officials have been in contact with Raleigh-based testing provider MAKO Medical Laboratories, which the County of Scotland currently uses for its testing services.

“It can help students, families and us,” Jordan said. “It’s an opportunity that we think would be good to take. We’re not obligated to anything yet.

MAKO screening would catch COVID-positive students early to contain the spread. Parents would need to register for their child to be tested – students would not automatically be registered.

There would be once a week a random sampling of classes within the K-12 population in various schools. Not all students are tested weekly. Sports teams at the college and high school levels would also be checked.

MAKO would report any positive test to the local health department, the student’s school, and the student’s family. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people would be tested since the school system does not have access to a student’s vaccination status.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is the funding source for testing.

“[NCDHHS] would provide money to our district for staff to help with contact tracing, notification of families [and supplies]”Jordan said.

There is no minimum RCS student attendance requirement to hire staff who would perform COVID testing. Jordan said that, for example, even if 10% of RCS students enroll, they would still be able to hire the staff needed to perform the tests.

Council member Joe Richardson asked how long the tests would take at each school. Jordan replied that he had been told that testing an entire classroom could be done in 10-15 minutes.

The county of Scotland does not carry out screening tests, but diagnostic tests, Jordan said. They only test symptomatic students and do their own testing without hiring MAKO staff. The county of Scotland is simply supplied by MAKO.

Now that the board has approved the plan, Jordan said he can consider starting to hire and making the registration form available to parents.

Positive test rates look ‘encouraging’

“The cases continued to drop,” Jordan said. “Children don’t get [COVID] at school. We hope this will continue as we enter cold and flu season. »

On October 11, there were 12 positive student cases in the RCS school system. Since October 11, the highest single-day number of positive cases was six, which was recorded on three different days.

During the same period, the highest number of positive cases in a single day for staff was two. For most days since October 11, no personnel cases have been reported.

In August, 43 students tested positive over 16 school days, for a total percentage of 0.6% of students in RCS. In September, 204 students tested positive over 30 school days, for a total percentage of 3.1%.

“[September] that’s when the Delta variant was rampant,” Jordan said. “We’re in a much better place for October.”

In October, 77 students tested positive over 31 school days, for a total percentage of 1.2%.

Council approves mask-wearing for December

“I recommend that we continue to require a universal mask for all K-12 students, staff, and visitors inside schools or school facilities, and when arriving on school transportation” , said the superintendent, Dr. Jeff Maples.

The motion was approved unanimously.

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Contact Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or [email protected]

Jeremy S. McLain