Massachusetts to launch COVID-19 ‘pooled testing’ in schools
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is preparing to launch a pooled testing program in schools that aims to help expand monitoring for COVID-19 and encourage schools to remain open with students attending in person.
Pooled testing is designed to test larger batches of people at a lower cost.
Under the pooled testing program outlined by Gov. Charlie Baker at a news conference Friday, teachers, staffers and students would be tested in batches of 10 using swabs in the front part of the nose.
Ten swabs at a time would be placed in a single tube and shipped off to a lab for testing. If the tube is tested and comes back negative, all 10 individuals are presumed to be negative for COVID-19.
If the test for a tube comes back positive, the 10 who contributed swabs to the tube are tested individually to determine who is positive and who is negative.
A handful of school districts are already using pooled testing, including Salem, Watertown and Medford.
The new pooled testing program will be available to schools next month.
Baker said the goal is to make sure that students can remain in their classes rather than relying on remote learning.
“This new testing will give school officials more knowledge about what’s happening inside their buildings every day,” Baker said. “There’s no doubt the virus will be with us for awhile, but while there’s a light at the end of the tunnel associated with the rollout of vaccines, we can’t wait for everyone to be vaccinated before our kids get back to school.”
The Massachusetts Teachers Association welcomed the move.
“After months of unionized educators calling for frequent surveillance testing for COVID-19 in our schools, it is excellent news that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is finally setting up a program for all districts that want it,” MTA President Merrie Najimy said in a written statement.
She said testing alone isn’t a magic solution and schools still need to provide adequate ventilation systems and continued requirements of mask wearing and physical distancing of at least 6 feet (2 meters).
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by 74 on Friday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 soared by more than 7,600.
The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to more than 12,708 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 400,800.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were more than 2,300 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 440 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 73.
The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 7,542.
ARMY OF VACCINATORS
Worcester is gearing up for a massive effort to administer coronavirus vaccines to first responders who work in the city and several surrounding communities, officials say.
What’s being called an “army of vaccinators” made up of up to 150 medical students will be trained Saturday to administer the vaccines, city Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh said during the weekly COVID-19 update Thursday at City Hall, The Telegram & Gazette reported.
The Worcester Senior Center is being transformed into a vaccination center.
First responders from Worcester as well as Shrewsbury, Millbury, Leicester, Holden, Grafton and West Boylston are eligible for the vaccinations starting next week.
Police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel from public and private ambulance companies, campus police and dispatchers will be given their first dose and can return by appointment in 28 days for the second dose.
An estimated 2,200 people will be eligible and the city hopes to administer 300 per day, City Manager Edward Augustus said.