SEARSPORT — In an effort to detect the COVID-19 virus early before symptoms develop and before it can spread, Regional School Unit 20 schools started a weekly pooled testing program Nov. 1. The testing is free and voluntary for students and staff. 

Parents or guardians choosing to allow their students to be tested must complete either an online form or a paper form, either of which may be accessed through the district website here.

According to information provided by RSU 20, the test will be administered once a week and results will be returned within 48 hours showing if anyone in a pool, or batch, is sick. If someone in the pool tests positive, then the entire group will be tested individually with the BinaxNOW Rapid antigen test. 

The positive individual will then be sent home to begin their quarantine period and the remaining negative pool members and close contacts in the testing program will resume in-person learning and school activities.

Students and staff who do not participate in the program and who are identified as a close contact will also be sent home and required to quarantine. A negative COVID-19 one-time test will not get a student out of quarantine. 

Fully vaccinated people who are close contacts and not participating in the testing program will not be required to quarantine, but should be tested three to five days after exposure.

Individuals who have tested positive in the past 90 days will be excluded from pool testing. After 90 days, they will be included in the pool again. Anyone who has symptoms should stay home from school and follow up with their health care provider.

Teachers and staff are encouraged to participate in the testing, even if fully vaccinated. While each vaccine is effective at preventing symptomatic infection, no vaccine is 100% effective.

The test itself includes a short nasal swab, which is inserted in each nostril. After samples are taken, the swab is then placed in a container tube with other swabs from the pool, and is shipped to a lab to be processed. 

According to Ginkgo Bioworks Inc. of Boston, which is providing the service, it is possible that individuals who have had COVID-19 but are no longer contagious will cause some pooled tests to come back positive, and every test has a chance of false positives.

filed under: