The Wellesley Public School system’s year is just underway, and much of the talk is already about testing. In this case, we’re talking viral testing to help staff and students stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the school community already know the drill, but for the rest of the community, we figure you might want to stay in the loop as well.
For those taking part in in-person learning and/or fall athletics, they’re required (staff) or strongly encouraged (students) to get tested so that the school system has a baseline from which to work. Students will be tested over the weekend and on Monday at Wellesley High School (note the change in location from the MLP garage). Because it’s a public school system, students cannot be mandated to get tested.
Ongoing surveillance, or assurance, testing of staff will take place in the weeks to come. This is designed to help limit the silent spread of the virus through asymptomatic individuals. Testing of symptomatic individuals will be handled outside of the school system’s viral testing program, as Supt. David Lussier outlined last week at a School Committee meeting.
A webinar on the testing pilot made available via Wellesley Media dives into all of this more deeply. It includes explanations of the types of tests being administered, what will happen if you test positive, and information on the organizations that the school system has aligned with for the testing (Boston Heart Diagnostics of Framingham and Rapid Reliable Testing, whose testing business grew out of an ambulance firm’s own testing efforts). Note that the webinar was recorded before the testing location change was announced.
The big message from Wellesley’s Jesse Boehm, a member of the testing pilot’s scientific advisory team and the parent of two school-age children, is that the more people who get tested, the more effective this program can be in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Ninety percent is a good goal to shoot for, he said, though 95% would essentially assure a safe environment, while also displaying a strong community effort that could inspire other cities and towns.
The testing/screening program is part of a broader set of precautions including social distancing, mask wearing, ventilation, cleaning, etc. The importance of testing is “to provide reassurance, both emotional reassurance and public health reassurance, that there really are as few cases in our schools as possible,” Boehm said.