Raimondo outlines separate testing system for K-12 students

School Updates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo dedicated her Tuesday briefing to testing readiness, the third out of five metrics the state requires to be met to safely reopen schools.

Raimondo said she will share what will happen in schools in the state with a briefing everyday at 1 p.m.

In her Monday briefing, the governor explained how public and private schools will have an “entirely separate” testing system from the rest of the state.

“We decided, after an incredible amount of thought, that we didn’t want to overly burden the schools or the school nurses, particularly at the get go,” Raimondo said. “The state is handling all of the testing. Municipalities do not have to worry about it.”

On Tuesday, she explained this system will be solely dedicated to schools and will have the daily capacity for 4,000 PCR tests, which are more accurate results delivered within 48 hours, and 1,200 rapid tests, which give you results within hours.

The governor said that if a student or teacher feels sick in anyway they will be required to stay home and schedule an appointment through the dedicated K-12 testing hotline dedicated to handling the volume from schools.

An appointment will then be scheduled at one of the dozen K-12 dedicated swabbing centers. The locations already identified for these sites are in Providence, Lincoln, Cranston, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, West Warwick, East Providence, Westerly, North Kingstown, Richmond, Newport and Smithfield.

Raimondo said she is working to get more sites up and running by the start of school and will add more if necessary.

“No one should have to drive more than 15 minutes to get to a testing site. We are being very conscious to have these testing sites on routes of public transportation,” Raimondo said. “If we need to add more than a dozen we absolutely will do that, but we are starting with 12 or maybe 14 all over the state.”

The governor also said each testing site will run two types of tests, the PCR test and also a rapid test, on every person who is symptomatic.

“It is truly the gold standard for testing for coronavirus,” Raimondo said. “The rapid tests helps us immediately identify positive cases. Time is our enemy with the coronavirus, speed matters, speed saves lives.”

If a rapid test is positive, contact tracing will start immediately to ensure close contacts can quarantine, according to Raimondo.

Even if the rapid test is negative, Raimondo said, the individual will have to stay at home and wait for the PCR test results. If this result is then negative, symptoms have improved, and they are fever free for 24 hours, then they may return to school.

If the test is positive, CDC guidelines will be followed, according to Raimondo. They must be fever free for 24 hours, have no symptoms, and it must be at least ten days since symptoms first appeared.

Raimondo said testing sites will also be prepared for asymptomatic testing, especially for those who are close contacts to a positive case. When they are tested they will only receive the PCR test and not the rapid test, since the rapid test is none to be less accurate with asymptomatic people.

If a person is asymptomatic and gets a positive test, they will need to isolate for ten days after the test was performed and learn virtually for those days.

If teachers or students feel sick during the day they will immediately be sent to the schools designated isolation room and wait there until they go home or are picked up, then go through the same process of being tested.

Raimondo ensures that every school will have a designated isolation room, since it not only had to be a part of school’s plans to be approved, but will be checked for during the walk through of schools.

Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said the guidelines have been created to determine who is a probable case and help add structure to who is at risk.

Someone will be determined as a probable case, according to Alexander-Scott, if they have any one of the symptoms of a persistent cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or a recent loss of taste or smell.

If they have two symptoms of fevers, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue or runny nose, they will also be determined as a probable case, according to Alexander-Scott.

Raimondo said she will discuss what happens in terms of contact tracing and quarantining if there is a positive case at a school on Wednesday.

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