Back To (In-Person) School: How Can We Do It Safely?

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By Dr. George Jour, advisory board member and clinical consultant at Innovative Health Diagnostics

As some of the youngest members of our communities return to school for the new year, the COVID-19 delta variant continues to soar from coast to coast at the same time. The continued spread of the virus and the increasingly contagious variant leave children extremely vulnerable and at-risk for exposure. Now more than ever, it is critical to put the health and safety of children first and use effective measures of prevention, particularly as they head back to school in larger sized groups. One primary practice to combat the spread of the delta variant in children is the implementation of reliable, consistent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

Back-to-school challenges addressed with PCR testing

Children are returning to the classroom this fall without the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as it is not yet approved for young children. While there is hope that the vaccine will become available to children under 12 in the coming months, there needs to be a plan in the interim. The number of delta variant cases continues to rise in children, causing the amount of child hospitalizations to trend upward.

To combat the spread of the delta variant, especially amongst children who are unable to get vaccinated, regular and consistent PCR testing is becoming an increasingly important and valuable tool. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has swiftly changed and evolved since early 2020, COVID-19 testing has too. There are many types of COVID-19 tests available, but the highest quality, gold standard has remained the PCR test. A PCR test, not to be confused with an antigen test often referred to as a rapid test, can detect the virus early on, even before antibodies or symptoms are present.

While local and federal guidelines vary, many school districts across the country are contemplating or have already implemented regular on-site testing efforts for students, teachers, and staff. As masks are not mandated in all schools, having frequent and reliable PCR testing on-site at schools is a critical part of protecting this young population while keeping schools open and safe.

On-site or pop-up testing clinics at schools are specifically designed to provide timely, yet accurate, results – both critical in the prevention of the virus spreading and allowing people to take swift actions to quarantine.

Solution for schools

Last month, an average of 276 children were hospitalized daily with COVID-19 between August 14 and 20, 2021. The same report states that more than 49,000 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since August of 2020.

Schools invested in shepherding children back to school in a safe environment, should consider working closely with facilities ready to meet the unique needs of schools in their desired format. Innovative Health Diagnostics (IHD) recently entered into a partnership with Los Angeles schools, providing its timely and accurate COVID-19 PCR tests to over 10,000 students across 40 schools and keeping teachers in the class. This boots-on-the-ground approach delivered the highest standard of COVID-19 testing to children, results were delivered with a turnaround time of less than 48 hours, providing timely feedback to school leadership and parents. This kind of program keeps children in school safely, provides parents and guardians with much needed relief and additional flexibility to work during school hours, and overall allows for a healthier community through consistent and transparent testing measures.

As children go back to school and the delta variant spikes simultaneously, it is crucial that we all do our part to protect the youngest members of our community from the virus. With school underway, reliable PCR testing is the ultimate solution to protect children from COVID-19 and keep them in school to safely and healthily flourish.

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Dr. George Jour is an advisory board member and clinical consultant at Innovative Health Diagnostics (IHD), a company that empowers every person by providing access to accurate, clinical testing, when and where it matters most. IHD services include fertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF) testing; FDA donor testing for families completing surrogacies; and COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody testing.

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