Delaware establishes COVID-testing program for schools

By Tim Mastro
Posted 7/19/21

DOVER — The Delaware Division of Public Health announced a $15 million partnership Monday with the Delaware Department of Education and Quidel Corp. to provide comprehensive COVID-19 testing, processing and reporting in the state’s schools.

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Delaware establishes COVID-testing program for schools

Posted

DOVER — The Delaware Division of Public Health announced a $15 million partnership Monday with the Delaware Department of Education and Quidel Corp. to provide comprehensive COVID-19 testing, processing and reporting in the state’s schools.

Quidel will utilize its rapid antigen tests to provide on-the-spot results in as little as 10 minutes.

While the availability of testing in schools is not new in Delaware, this service is a turnkey solution that includes providing Quidel staff to conduct on-site tests, analyze results and report them to families and the state, taking the burden off schools. Results are reported back to families within 24 hours. The service will be free to schools and staff.

State officials said frequent testing helps immediately identify COVID-19 cases, prevent transmission and keep schools open.

“When used alongside other prevention strategies, like distancing and face masks, testing creates an additional level of reassurance that it is safe to keep schools open,” DPH Chief Physician Dr. Rick Pescatore said in a statement. “This program allows schools the best of both worlds, being able to identify potential cases early while continuing to focus on the business of learning.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended screening testing as an important mitigation strategy in its updated guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools.

“Antigen testing facilitates our quick identification of cases, which, in turn, will help keep our classrooms open to in-person learning,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting. “I appreciate the ongoing support of the Division of Public Health in ensuring that our schools remain open and safe for both students and staff.”

Delaware is following CDC’s updated guidance, as vaccinated teachers and students will not need to wear masks indoors in the fall. The state has said it does not intend to require vaccinations for students. Many districts statewide expressed their intention to operate in a full, in-person setting when classes begin for the 2021-22 year.

The state has yet to announce what restrictions, if any, will be mandated for a full return to in-person learning. For summer school, students and staff must maintain a minimum of 3 feet apart with face coverings, including when seated at desks or standing in classrooms, in accordance with guidance from DPH. Masks are not necessary outdoors, and educators and staff are not required to wear masks when children are not present.

DPH, DOE and Quidel have already launched the new testing initiative at five pilot schools, for their summer school students and staff. Three participating schools are in the Colonial School District, one is in the Christina School District, and the other is Odyssey Charter School. Quidel can expand the program to all 350 of the state’s K-12 public, private and charter schools when classrooms fully reopen for the fall semester. Under the program, parental permission is required for students to participate.

This service is meant to be a routine process aimed at testing asymptomatic staff and students. Those who have symptoms of COVID-19 are reminded to stay home and seek a test at one of Delaware’s available sites, found here. Quidel and DPH will coordinate follow-up testing and results reporting for any student who receives a positive result from the rapid antigen screening.

Schools and families that want to learn more about the program can visit here. Questions about testing can also be directed to DPH at richard.pescatore@delaware.gov.

Delaware is averaging 44.7 new COVID-19 cases per day over the last week — the highest seven-day average since June 3. There were 39 new positives reported by DPH in Monday’s update, bringing the state’s total to 110,423.

The number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 remained at 30 for the third consecutive day. Of those currently hospitalized, five cases are considered critical.

No new COVID-19-related deaths were reported, as that total stayed at 1,697. All numbers via DPH reflect data as of Sunday at 6 p.m.