DHEC: New pilot program would allow school nurses to conduct rapid testing


HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — DHEC and the S.C. Department of Education leaders are working towards an in-school testing pilot program that would allow school nurses to conduct rapid testing.

Currently, no public school nurses in the state can perform a COVID-19 test on students. The pilot program discussion comes days after The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for rapid testing to help contain infections.

State health recommendations do not require teachers to quarantine if exposed to a household or close contact with COVID-19. South Carolina health officials describe teachers as critical infrastructure workers.

To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, the CDC said: “Critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.”

Teachers are allowed to continue working if it comes down to maintaining operations, limited staffing, and they do not have symptoms. The Executive Director of Safety and Risk Management for the Georgetown County School District and State Board Member, Alan Walters, is not sure how many districts will follow this.

“It would be a case-by-cases basis, but we don’t intend to do and will see if there’s any way at all to get around it,” Walters said.

State health recommendations don’t require schools to perform routine temperature checks before students enter school, leaving some responsibility on parents.

“Please check your kids before they go to school. Ask them those questions, see if they have a fever, and if they do, keep them home,” Walters said.

Some education leaders said in-school rapid testing could help reduce the spread, but there may be some obstacles.

“That in itself could be a barrier to getting the program on its way, but I’m sure they’ll work around it to try to get all these things in place where it can be done now,” Walters said.

Abbott Laboratories, creators of a new rapid test, said the self-contained test does not need special equipment. It can be performed by several trained physicians including school nurses.

In a statement on Abbott Laboratories website: “Within these settings, the test can be performed by doctors, nurses, school nurses, medical assistants and technicians, pharmacists, employer occupational health specialists, and more with minimal training and a patient prescription.

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