The phrase “back-to-school” brings to mind fresh notebooks, new teachers, and friends. This fall, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s filled with uncertainty and anxiety.
Teachers are concerned about returning to the classroom, with 2 out of 3 preferring the idea of teaching online. Students are thinking less about the clubs they’ll join and more about how to keep six feet apart from their classmates in crowded hallways. And while many schools across North America have reopened, many have also had to close due to outbreaks.
Keeping our children and teachers safe
At a time when we have multiple tools at our disposal to detect and reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure, we must ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep our children, teachers, and ultimately our communities safe.
In this post, we’ll explain what environmental surveillance testing is, why it’s an integral tool to keep our children and teachers safe, and how it could be used in K-12 schools.
If you can’t detect it, you can’t fight it
Social distancing efforts have helped us slow the transmission of the coronavirus, but in our new reality — where everything we touch and the air we breathe is suspect — widespread environmental surveillance testing is an important tool to help keep students and teachers safe.
Environmental surveillance testing uses the same gold standard as clinical diagnosis, quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) technology, to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.
This testing method is not new, it’s been used for decades to monitor for pathogens and biothreats in industries like healthcare and food production. These same reliable, fast, and sensitive test methods are now available to quantify the risk of the virus on nearly any surface that we come in contact with.
By identifying the lingering presence of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces or in the air and water where we live, work, learn, and play, we can help create a safer path forward. So, how can environmental testing help mitigate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in schools?
Work, learn, and play with confidence
In this time of uncertainty, imagine knowing whether the virus is present on high-touch surfaces — like desks, keyboards, door handles, restrooms, etc. — and being able to take immediate action before an outbreak occurs.
With environmental surveillance testing, you can.
At the end of the school day, high-touch surfaces could be swabbed and tested right in the classroom with a portable qPCR machine, eliminating the need to send samples to a lab, with results available in less than two hours.
If the results were negative, regular cleaning and disinfection procedures could begin.
If one or more of the results were positive, decision makers could quickly identify who had been in the classroom and take additional precautions – including contact tracing and clinical testing.
Then the custodial staff could perform a preventative deep clean and re-test the classroom to verify that it’s been effectively disinfected. Verification that your high-touch surfaces have been thoroughly disinfected and present little risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission is important. This re-establishes a clean baseline to compare your next set of samples to and gives you real-time insight on the health and wellness of the entire school environment.
Environmental surveillance testing not only allows you to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2, it helps to restore public confidence by demonstrating that you’re doing everything you can to keep your students, staff — and communities safe.
Interested in learning more about how environmental surveillance testing can be used in schools? LuminUltra has a range of reliable, fast, and easy-to-use testing solutions to identify the presence of SARS-CoV-2. Contact us to learn more about a testing protocol for your needs.