BELLE FOURCHE — The Belle Fourche School District Monday heard an update about the current COVID-19 figures within its schools and decided against participating in rapid testing.
Brandi VanSickle, the school district’s nurse, updated the board about the ongoing COVID-19 cases.
During the week of Oct. 4-11, she said the district had four adults test positive for the virus and two negative. As of Monday, one adult was still awaiting results. As for students, the district saw only one positive case during that time period. VanSickle said the district currently has 21 students quarantined due to exposure outside of school or other health concerns.
“(Through) research, (officials) are finding out schools aren’t really the place where students are transmitting the virus between each other - it’s out-of-school activities,” Superintendent Steve Willard said. “It’s becoming more and more evident that school is a good place for kids to be because we have protocols in place - we have hand sanitizer, we have teachers working with social distancing. That’s a good thing; our numbers show that.”
When the weather turns cold and more people retreat inside, Willard said the situation could change.
“We’re really going to have to watch things and see what happens then but hopefully, if we’re taking all these precautions for COVID, it’s also going to work for strep and influenza,” he said. “So we might turn out having a healthier year.
In September, the Trump Administration announced plans to distribute millions of rapid tests to assist governors’ efforts to continue to safely reopen states. The BinaxNOW rapid test is produced by Abbot. The unique testing option is meant to provide support to K-12 teachers and students, higher education, critical infrastructure, first responders, and other priorities as governors deem fit. The BinaxNOW rapid test – the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration-authorized antigen rapid point-of-care test that does not require an instrument – is slated as easy to use, produces COVID-19 test results in 15 minutes, and costs $5.
Willard said the state announced it is sending every school district enough tests to check every student and staff member twice.
However, the cons may outweigh the pros.
VanSickle said the test involves a nasal swab and a test card. After 15 minutes, a result should be developed. The test’s accuracy, however, is questionable, she said, at around 75%.
To safely perform the test on a sick student in the school environment, Vansickle said she would don the full body personal protective equipment including a mask, shield, goggles, gowns, gloves, and booties.
In addition to supplies required to carry out each test, VanSickle said the amount of time expended would be substantial.
Say little “Billy” isn’t feeling good and is actively exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. VanSickle would call his parents are ask that they come pick him up. After waiting between 15-20 minutes for the parents to arrive, they’d be asked to sign a consent form to allow the nurse to perform the rapid test on their child.
Between waiting for consent, suiting up, and getting the results, VanSickle said it could be 45 minutes for each child tested. And that doesn’t include filling out and sending paperwork to send to the state Department of Health, as is required whether the test is negative or positive.
“I feel like that would require a lot of time and a lot of effort that we don’t have,” she said. “I really don’t see it as a need. This is something that should be done at a clinic between a provider and that parent.”
High School Principal Mathew Raba agreed.
“I just don’t know if we want to be in the business of ‘we’re the testing site,’” he said. “And I don’t think that our families have had any trouble getting in and getting tested when they need to.”
Scott Reder, the board’s vice president, voiced concerns about liability with the issue, as well.
Willard said that VanSickle has been swamped with her normal functions over the last few weeks.
“And that’s just doing COVID stuff, not ‘Billy falling off the monkey bars and knocks a tooth loose,’” he said. “I don’t want to lose my nurses, I don’t want to overload them.”
The board unanimously voted to opt out of participation in the rapid test program. Instead, the district recommends that students and exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms call the Monument Health nurse triage line at (605) 755-1350. For updates and to learn more about ways you can protect yourself and the people around you from COVID-19, visit the South Dakota Department of Health site COVID.SD.GOV or call 1-800-997-2880.
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