New on-site COVID-19 testing aids school during first student COVID-19 case

November 19, 2021 — by Jonny Luo
Photo by Sanjoli Gupta
Inspire Diagnostic employees prepare for COVID-19 testing on Nov. 16.

The school recorded its first student COVID-19 case on Nov. 4. Previously, two school employees had tested positive for COVID-19. 

The student, who The Falcon is not naming to protect her privacy, tested positive through a test done outside of school. After her father tested positive for COVID-19, she and her entire family got tested on Nov. 3. 

“We thought he just had allergies,” the girl said. “But we got him tested just to be safe and because there was no reason not to.” 

She displayed symptoms and consequently had to quarantine for 10 days; she is back at school and able to attend her normal classes. For her, the biggest consequence was catching up on her missed schoolwork. 

After the student received her results, the school pulled students out of class who shared classes with her to conduct contact tracing, assisted by Inspire Diagnostics, a company providing COVID-19 testing and tracing for the school. 

Inspire Diagnostics provides free PCR tests at the health office every Tuesday from 8:30-10:30 a.m. and Thursday from 2-4 p.m and to the Los Gatos health office on Tuesdays from 2-4 p.m and on Thursdays from 8:30-10:30 a.m. PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is a lab technique that tests for the genetic material of the COVID-19 virus, and it is considered the most accurate test available by a ​​Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist.

Any student or staff may take the optional PCR test, and notifications will be sent out to those required to take the test — such as this particular case, where students were pulled out of class for a special testing session provided by the company.

Close contacts to COVID-19 cases must be immediately tested by a PCR test, then tested again five days later. Vaccinated students who are asymptomatic during this period may stay at school, although unvaccinated students may not. If a student develops symptoms during this time, they would have to stay home, assistant principal Brian Thompson said. 

Students who fail to complete their Screener-19 daily check-ins regularly may also be pulled out of class to take the test, Thompson said.

The school is providing PCR testing because rapid antigen testing, a quicker but less reliable COVID-19 test, is no longer accepted by the Santa Clara County Health Department to determine whether a student has contracted COVID-19, Thompson said. 

The school has also implemented surveillance testing, where students and staff members get weekly testing. The school hopes to eventually regularly test 20 percent of the population, or 130 students every day testing is available. 

The school has pulled students out to ask if they wanted to do surveillance testing, and so far, no positive cases have emerged through it — a sign that COVID-19 is minimally present in the school. 

“The timing of this particular [COVID-19] case worked out nicely,” Thompson said. “Since it was on a weekday, we were able to ask Inspire Diagnostics to do a special testing session, so students didn’t need to go out into the community and do it themselves.”

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