Arrival of COVID-19 Tests Provide Hope for Reopening Schools

A massive shipment of federal testing supplies could provide Oregon with its best chance to reopen on-site learning in schools. The federal government has promised to accommodate Oregon with 60,000 to 80,000 tests each week through the end of the year, allowing for better identification of new cases. 

While state officials claim there is no way the testing supplies would qualify for on-going testing at schools and a sweeping, immediate reopening, it has helped advance schools to pick back up.

The Director of the Oregon Health Authority thinks focusing these tests on driving down the prevalence rate will help get us to a sufficient environment in which we could start in-person learning for the long run safely. While there is optimism, there are prevalent challenges that could interfere with the return of schools; Public Health Officials worry the spread will increase during flu season, making coronavirus even more threatening.

As part of a commitment from the Trump Administration, they will be providing 100 million tests across the country; This is good news for Oregon as we will be receiving a large wave of tests. In response to the new tests coming our way, the first step will be expanding testing guidelines by advising testing for anyone exposed through close contact to a confirmed or suspected infection, even if the person lacks symptoms. While it is unclear how many Oregonians will be tested as a direct result of the change in criteria, most people infected come in contact with ten people on average who would now be eligible for examination.

“Oregon has relatively few coronavirus cases and deaths compared to other states. Oregon also has one of the nation’s lowest per capita testing rates, with only about 30,000 tests completed each week” (Schmidt 12). Patrick Allen, the Director of Oregon Health Authority, wants to see the state use at least half of the government’s share along with the state’s existing benchmark; This means at least 600,000 Oregonians should be tested weekly in the fall. The set expectation is doable and should use the testing equipment to our utmost advantage.

Development in testing called the Abbott BinaxNOW is an antigen test that provides results within 15 minutes through the nasal swab. It detects proteins on the surface of the virus rather than detecting the underlying genetic material. While this is convenient and inexpensive, the tests are not always accurate and could produce a higher rate of false negatives, giving infected people the wrong impression. It is important to stress the reality that false negatives are not uncommon, so you should continue wearing your masks and social distancing.

The state is reviewing its school reopening criteria and making changes within the coming weeks.

“The state is likely to keep requirements that a county must have fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 residents in recent weeks to fully reopen to on-site learning, or 30 cases per 100,000 residents to reopen kindergarten through third grade” (Schmidt 26). If the state’s positivity rate is above 5%, officials may block full reopenings.

While distance learning is tough, it may be worse for kids and their families to be moving back and forth between closing and opening.

 

Agent Website Photos-KristaThis blog post was written by Krista Pham, our intern.

The article that inspired this piece can be found, here.