By: Audrey Trivedi — Correspondent
Sharon High School has begun the first round of school provided COVID testing using the Ginkgo Bioworks Concentric pool test pilot program where students and teachers who volunteer to take part in the test are grouped together and tested.
This past week, DESE (the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) officially approved Sharon to participate in their 6-week pool testing program. This is in addition to the original 4–week program.
If one ‘pool’ or group of people’s test results is a positive case, all involved in the pool are able to take follow-up testing that same day which will determine whether or not they must quarantine for the 14 day period. Sharon is still in partnership with DESE for the additional BinaxNow program. This partnership uses BinaxNow tests for diagnosing coronavirus infection free of charge to staff and students.
“Any student or staff that have symptoms of an illness that might be COVID-19 can be tested using the BinaxNow test. Second, any group of asymptomatic people who participate in the Ginkgo Bioworks/DESE pool testing program and whose pool test is positive can also obtain a follow-up BinaxNow test to determine whether you are positive for COVID19,” explained Dussault in a letter to the Sharon Public Schools community.
Science coordinator Ms. Emily Burke says that 110 students and staff signed up to take the first round of testing. Additionally, there were no positive cases thus far in any round.
“I thought it would help with seeing how much the virus spreads around the school,” says freshman Patrick Blaney. He says that it gives context for whether or not the school might need to close.
Sophomore Alexis Maron also says that she thinks it is a good way to see how the school as a whole is doing COVID-wise, especially because there may be a large number of asymptomatic people.
“It is a small action to take to help keep everyone healthy and school open,” says junior Daphne Theiler.
Theiler says that she does not know much about the testing process besides what has been sent out in emails, but she says it will keep all students safe. Freshman Sadie Dussault says that she thinks the process was both quick and efficient while still being safe in the process.
“I wish that they would change who they put together in pools because it just makes more sense. Why should I quarantine if someone in my pool, who I have had zero contact with, ends up testing positive?” says sophomore Madaline Burton.
Burton is an athlete and says that if she was in a pool but was not the person who was positive, she would not want to risk her team’s ability to play.
“I would not find out who tested positive in my pool, this means that I would have to quarantine and get another COVID test even if I was negative, to begin with,” says Maron, “I wish that they would tell us who in our pods tested positive for the virus; thus, preventing unnecessary panic if I actually tested negative.” A large amount of the concern expressed was in regards to the pools formed.
Burke says that the pools are formed by the people who are in a class together on the day of testing. Generally, they are location-based, so if there are multiple people who are signed up for testing in the same room on the day that the testing is provided, they will be grouped together in the same pool.
“The company requires pools of 5-25 people. For the first round we were able to keep the pools to about 5-10 people,” said Burke.
“I think that it will help in eliminating the possibility of others getting Covid. It would ensure that if someone does have Covid they are not coming into contact with anyone else,” said acting Superintendent Dr. Meg Dussault.
image from wcvb.com