Could a test-to-stay strategy prevent NC students from missing school?
RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – The New York School District is moving away from mandatory classroom quarantines and plans to do more testing instead. If there is a classroom with a COVID-19 case, the whole class will be sent home with a test kit. Students return if they are negative.
It is a strategy they hope will be able to prevent students from missing school. Researchers at Duke University said a similar strategy could work for North Carolina students as well.
As students prepare to return home from winter break, Duke pediatric professor Dr Danny Benjamin has said that a test-to-stay strategy may be a better alternative to the automatic quarantine we currently have.
“Because there is going to be a lot of COVID in schools in January, this is an important finding for children’s public health,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin is part of Duke’s ABC Science Collaborative. He is studying the transmission of COVID-19 in K-12 schools. Its six-week study found that testing children exposed to COVID-19 rather than immediately sending them to quarantine avoided missing more than 1,600 days of school.
“Any adult trained in the test can administer the test, and it can be done at school. It doesn’t have to be done at home testing, he said.
Under current guidelines, anyone exposed to someone positive for COVID must be quarantined. They can come back at the earliest after five days if they are asymptomatic and the test is negative.
Research from the ABC Collaborative found that those exposed would only return home if they tested positive or had symptoms. You can stay as long as they are hidden.
“If students are in a universal masking district and have a brief period of unmasked – for example, lunch – now if they are exposed to COVID, they can stay in the school, ”Benjamin explained.
The program would work by testing the exposed person on the day they are made aware of the exposure, and then again between days five and seven.
The strategy uses fewer tests, which is essential given the current testing crisis.
“We have reduced the number of tests used by 90% and we are reducing the number of quarantines by more than 90% from what the CDC describes,” Benjamin said.
The state now has these study results. It will be up to public health officials to decide what to do with it, if at all.
Something they will need to pay special attention to is school sports. They were associated with half of the confirmed cases in this study.