COLUMBIA, Mo. – During Missouri’s Gubernatorial Forum at the Missouri Theatre, each candidate was asked to rate the state’s response to COVID-19. They were also asked what additional steps they would take to combat the virus, if any.
In the debate presented by the Missouri Press Association/KOMU 8, Governor Mike Parson said Missouri has taken a balanced approach since day one. He mentioned that his staff reached out to Washington University, the University of Missouri and the Missouri Hospital Association. He credited his Show Me Strong Recovery Plan, which he says emphasized PPE and testing.
“We went from 2,000 tests a week to over 125,000 today,” Governor Parson said. “In a couple of weeks, we’ll have testing in every school in the state of Missouri.”
So, what would testing look like in every school, and how would it work?
Yesterday, the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) released a nine-page document outlining “Missouri’s BinaxNOW Antigen Testing Program for K-12 Institutions.” Ozarks First reached out to DESE, but it did not respond.
Here’s a brief summary of what the document says:
First things first, the COVID-19 tests kits are intended for symptomatic school employees and students – within seven days of developing symptoms. The test is done with a nasal swab, and a nurse or doctor must administer it. Whoever gives the test is required to watch this step-by-step training video. Tests cannot be done in a school’s health office.
Health professionals should have written consent from anyone they test. Those under 18 need to have a parent or guardian sign a consent form. A sample form can be seen on the ninth page of DESE’s PDF.
People who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate. Those who test negative while showing symptoms are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider and stay home until symptoms go away. BinaxNOW Test results come back in 15 minutes.
School districts interested in receiving tests have to fill out an online application form by Wednesday, Oct. 21, at noon.
To be eligible for tests, the district or school must have healthcare employees on-hand to administer the tests. They also have to complete training, receive tests using one central hub location. They must also complete an electronic reporting on-boarding process and agree to only test people who are symptomatic. Lastly, they have to develop a plan for safely getting rid of infectious waste that may come from a test. The district and/or school has to provide DHSS with up-to-date testing information on who is giving the tests and where the tests are happening.
The amount of test kits accepted applicants get will not be larger than the school’s population (employees and students combined). Districts and schools need to be capable of storing a large number of tests. Schools that lack PPE will be provided with resources by the state.
DESE says it “strongly believes that these rapid antigen tests will be instrumental in both opening schools and keeping schools open.”
Are any local schools going to participate?
Ozarks First reached out to Ozark School District, Nixa Public Schools and Willard Public Schools. Each district provided a written statement.
Willard Public Schools: “We’re very interested in exploring the opportunity of onsite District testing,” Director of Communications Whitney Burrell said. “We will continue to do everything we can to keep our families healthy and our students learning at school. Our Health Services Director has worked diligently to partner with our local and state officials to take advantage of any support that is offered to help our learners. It’s very early in the process, but we hope to learn more in the coming weeks.”
Nixa Public Schools: “We are looking into the application process,” Chief Communication Officer Zac Rantz said. “Our health services team is reviewing everything.”
Ozark School District: “We received the notification yesterday,” Director of Communications Casey Owens said. “Lots of pieces will have to be put together to make this work. We are investigating this. We cannot tell you if we will be implementing this at this point.”
Springfield Public Schools: “SPS will be developing a plan for testing once it becomes available and will be communicating those details once they are confirmed,” Chief Communications Officer Stephen Hall said.