Missouri public and private schools have asked for thousands of antigen test kits that show in minutes, not days, if an individual is infected with COVID-19.
As of Thursday, state officials had shipped 200,200 kits to 246 districts, and many are headed to the Ozarks.
Springfield, the largest district in the state, requested 27,334 kits. Ozark asked for 6,974, Carthage wanted 6,344 and Republic requested 6,116.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education noted high interest in the state’s BinaxNOW Antigen Testing Program for K-12 districts. There were nearly 330 applications seeking a total of 583,000 testing kits.
Missouri to receive 1.84 million COVID-19 antigen tests
Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said, in a news release, that state officials are working to make this resource available as quickly as possible.
“We believe these rapid antigen tests, in conjunction with other mitigation strategies, could be instrumental in helping schools provide onsite learning opportunities safely,” she said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide the antigen test kits, at no charge, to public and private K-12 schools, higher education institutions and long-term care facilities.
In all, Missouri is expected to eventually receive 1.84 million of the antigen test kits.
The minimally invasive nasal swab tests must be administered by a health professional — typically, a school nurse — and yield results in 15 minutes.
The antigen test kits can be used in the school setting to test students or employees, if the appropriate consent has been given.
The results, which must be reported within 24 hours to the state Department of Health and Senior Services, can be helpful in determining if a student or employee can stay in the school setting or be sent home.
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Testing in schools
Nearly 39 percent of all of the schools’ requested kits have been shipped. Due to limited inventory, the districts were sent a partial shipment in the first round. The state hopes to send more as the inventory increases.
The Strafford school district, just east of Springfield, requested 260 test kits. So far, 80 test kits, or 31 percent, have been shipped.
Strafford Superintendent Brett Soden said the plan is to use them to test employees, as needed, if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
“We felt it might be a way to help our staff and to get results quicker and keep our staff in the classrooms or at their jobs as much as possible,” he said.
In the 1,300-student district, less than 10 percent of students are learning virtually. The rest are learning in person.
A number of private and charter schools have requested kits. For example, Springfield Catholic Schools asked for 900 and 360 have been shipped so far.
The Logan-Rogersville district asked for 2,706 test kits and 1,080, or 40 percent, have been shipped. Superintendent Shawn Randles said quicker results will likely reduce the number of quarantines needed.
“We hope the antigen tests will become a factor in keeping kids in school,” he said. “We ordered one for every single student and adult.”
Logan-Rogersville, like nearly all other districts, relies now on county health departments for COVID-19 testing. That is expected to continue, as needed, with the antigen test kits working as a supplement.
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.