Haverhill schools to end COVID-19 pool testing and move to rapid home testing

Haverhill Public Schools will no longer conduct COVID-19 pool testing, but will instead switch to weekly home testing for students and staff.

The decision follows the announcement last week by the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education of a program in which schools can opt into an alternative curriculum that eliminates the need for contact tracing, testing in pool and the “test and stay” policy. Last night, the director of health services at the school, Katie Vozeolas, gave the reason to the members of the school committee.

“The concept is that school districts that sign up, parents and staff will receive an in-home kit with two tests for each child or each staff member, and you would test once a week and the district, in turn , would stop contact tracing and test and stay,” she explained.

Vozeolas said data shows transmission in schools has been very low and this new procedure reflects a change in approach to tackling COVID-19. She said the change will allow schools to strengthen testing for people with symptoms of the disease.

The new program allows schools to continue pool testing with home testing. Haverhill Public School doctor Dr John Maddox, however, said he did not believe further action was needed.

“I’m very excited about this new testing change. I also encourage you to consider eliminating pool testing and there are a number of reasons. First, when doing a pool test, don’t test for a few weeks after having COVID because it can stay positive for a while So we take asymptomatic people who wear a mask all day and we do a PCR test on them and then when they are positive we remove them from school The home test is the rapid antigen test and it’s a much better indication of contagiousness,” he said.

Maddox said that although nurses are doing everything that is asked of them, this new procedure goes a long way to easing their burden.

The committee voted unanimously to implement home testing and voted 4 to 3 in favor of stopping pool testing, committee members Scott W. Wood Jr., Toni Sapienza-Donais and the Mayor James J. Fiorentini having opposed it.

School superintendent Margaret Marotta said the change will likely take around two weeks to implement.

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