Longview ISD welcomed state and local officials for the first run of rapid response COVID-19 tests being implemented at the district.

Strong turnout for 'model' COVID testing

Thu Oct 22, 2020

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Longview ISD welcomed state and local officials for the first run of rapid response COVID-19 tests being implemented at the district.

More than 40 district administration employees participated, with only one positive case reported.

As part of Gov. Greg Abbott's COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program for Texas Schools, the non-invasive test is completely free of charge and totally voluntary.

In attendance Thursday morning at the LISD administration building were officials from Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), Gregg County Health Department, Longview Fire Department, and some observers from school districts in the area.

Mr. Dennis Williams, Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services, said the goal of the preliminary testing was to "model basic operational procedures that can be replicated across district campuses."

"As we get ready to roll this out to the rest of our campuses, this week of training has been invaluable to help prepare for a much larger scale," he said. 

Full-scale staff testing of staff on LISD campuses will begin on Monday, Oct. 26th, with plans to include students on the week of Nov. 2nd. No students will be tested without parental consent. Forms will be provided and must be completed for each individual student.

Results for the self-administered nasal swab test are available in around 15 minutes. The tests will be administered on a "first come, first serve" basis until all spots are filled.

Mr. Williams said the district is still working with state officials "to help streamline the pre-registration process."

"Ideally it would be as simple as just signing in, doing the test, waiting for the results, and then continuing with your day," he said. "We're not quite there yet, but we're making great progress in a fairly short amount of time."

Testing began shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday, with only one or two LISD staffers signing up initially. In the first two hours, there were less than ten participants. But soon the numbers began to grow, as more employees heard how simple and easy the process was. 

Nevertheless, Mr. Williams said he was pleased with how the testing went. 

"I think it went well, not only from a prevention standpoint but for the logistics as well," he said. "We started training our nurses and staff for this on Tuesday with just 14 test subjects, and today we were able to look at over 30 participants. 

The Division of Emergency Management is providing Longview ISD with the rapid antigen tests to administer to those who choose to participate.

According to health officials, these tests are 97-98 percent effective in detecting antigens that indicate COVID-19 in the test subjects.

Earlier this year Abbott Labs received emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its rapid antigen test, which can detect a COVID-19 infection in 15 minutes.

The test is a "game-changer," according to Dr. Brett Giroir, U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Abbott Lab's "BinaxNOW" non-invasive test is about the size of a credit card, and comes with a free mobile app that will let people who test negative display a temporary, date-stamped health pass that is renewed each time a new test is taken. The test itself uses the same type of technology as a flu test.

"The massive scale of this test and app will allow tens of millions of people to have access to rapid and reliable testing," said Dr. Joseph Petrosino, a professor of virology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Longview ISD has also received the necessary personal protective equipment to administer the non-invasive procedure, which produces results in 15 minutes.

Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox said Longview ISD will be allotted around 2,000 tests per month.

"We may receive additional tests depending on how many other school districts opt-in by Oct. 28th," he said.

Dr. Wilcox added that Longview ISD "remains in contact with state and local authorities as we move forward with this endeavor."

"We will continue to re-evaluate the state of the district on a daily basis, and any information released is subject to change," he said

For more information please check our website here: lisd.org/COVID