Atlanta schools give more than 8,200 COVID-19 tests in a month

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

More than 8,000 COVID-19 tests were administered in the first month of Atlanta Public Schools’ ambitious plan to test as many employees and students as possible each week.

APS launched its surveillance testing program in eight schools in early February and since expanded the initiative to include all schools and district offices.

The tests are voluntary, though APS strongly encourages employees and students to participate.

The program aims to reduce the spread of the coronavirus through weekly tests that detect COVID-19, even in those with no symptoms. As the effort grows, officials estimated the district could give 10,000 tests each week.

In the first four weeks of the program, the district reported that its contractor, Viral Solutions, administered 8,214 tests. About 57% of those tests were for students, whose parents first must sign a consent form.

During the initial month of testing, 24 positive cases were detected: 12 employees and 12 students, according to a document prepared for Monday’s school board meeting.

The rapid antigen tests are non-diagnostic tests used for the purpose of public health screenings. If the test detects the presence of COVID-19, APS advises the person to quarantine and seek additional testing from their doctor or a state testing center.

Since late August, APS reported 510 cases of the coronavirus among students and employees. For the week ending Feb. 26, cases included 14 staff and 14 students, according to district data.

Katika Lovett, assistant superintendent of student services, said the first days of testing started slowly as people learned about the procedure, which requires swabbing the front of the nose.

“When you talk about COVID testing a lot of people are very nervous. They think they’re going to have a large swab that goes all the way through their eyeballs, but the surveillance testing is a much more comfortable process,” she said during a February APS meeting about the coronavirus.

The number of tests administered more than doubled each week as the district expanded the surveillance program to include all schools. Last week, when the initiative rolled out in middle and high schools, a total of 4,739 tests were given across APS.

Lovett said she’s excited by how many people, especially students, agreed to be tested.

“It’s only as good as the numbers grow, so the more participation we have the better it is,” she said.

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