Cary, N.C. — The Wake County Public School System will soon begin a voluntary COVID-19 screening program, using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and medical professionals supplied by Mako Medical.
The Wake County Board of Education approved the agreement Tuesday night, with Board Member Roxie Cash voting against it.
The agreement lasts through June 30, 2022, which is when the federal funds supporting the program expire.
North Carolina DHHS is offering a free COVID-19 testing program for schools following a pilot program last spring. More than 300 schools and school districts have signed up for it, though they haven’t necessarily begun testing.
North Carolina has $315 million that schools with approved testing programs can access for reimbursement payments. Those funds come via $10 billion allocated in the most recent federal coronavirus stimulus package for all states to do screening testing in schools.
Screening testing is seen as a way to detect COVID-19 cases early and reduce spread of the virus. It’s unclear what the impact could be on quarantines once implemented in Wake County.
In Wake County’s schools, Mako Medical will conduct testing for pools of six people at a time as the district gradually begins screening for those who have volunteered to be tested. Employees can volunteer and students must have the consent of their parents or guardians, even if they are 18 years old.
Testing would start at a limited number of schools. Those would be schools with active or “potential” clusters of COVID-19 cases. Central office staff would also be a part of the first phase.
The test pools would work like this:
- A pool of people is swabbed for COVID-19
- Portions of their samples are combined into one, which is then run through a single analysis
- A negative pool result is a presumptive negative test for all
- A positive pool result would require each member of the pool to be tested again, also by Mako Medical, later that week
Those whose pool test is positive would be subject to the same quarantine rules as anyone else who is exposed to the virus.