Maine schools begin COVID-19 pool testing rollout

Program begins rollout
Program begins rollout(WABI)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:08 PM EDT
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DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine (WABI) - The effort to get kids back in the classroom free of COVID-19 is underway, even in the summer.

The Maine Department of Education will offer pool PCR testing to all of the state’s schools this year.

“We have 132 schools that are currently enrolled in the program,” said Emily Poland, Maine Department of Education school nurse consultant.

Poland says of that group, 11 are already rolling it out. One of them is in Dover-Foxcroft.

“Pool testing is a way to COVID test groups of students,” said Courtney Arcaro.

Arcaro is Sedomocha’s school nurse.

“I have them separated into a cohort or a group, and all the students who have parental consent swab their nose, put the swab into the tube which is not labeled with any student identifiers, and then those tubes get sent off,” Arcaro said.

“PCR is a highly sensitive test, and I can pick up very low levels of the virus. We’re picking up positive cases up to 48 hours before they would’ve even been infectious,” Poland said.

“Any kid who can pick their nose, which is most, can do the swab. And it’s really easy. I have kindergartners headed in the first grade that you saw earlier doing their own swabs,” Arcaro said.

“I feel like we are in a better position than we were last fall. We know a lot more about COVID than we did last August. Certain schools have proven that they can do this,” Poland said.

Arcaro, who has children that are students at the school, hopes other parents will opt their kids in to the testing.

“The greater participation that we have, the better the results and the safer we can keep students,” Arcaro said.

As the new school year draws closer, it will ultimately come down to local control.

“As we approach this year, I think they will see more local decisions being made. We do have some lessons learned, we have these mitigation strategies that we can layer on top of each other such as masking, physical distancing, hand washing, making sure kids stay home if they’re sick. All of those are tools in a local district. A local school needs to decide which of these tools are we going to be using and when,” Poland said.

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