APS Launches COVID-19 Surveillance Testing in Partnership with Viral Solutions

I want our APS community to know that we serve every student as if they were our children or grandchildren.  We do this by loving them and giving them the education and skills needed to be successful in life.

We protect our people — whether they are teachers, staff, administrators, or others — by putting them in the safest and most productive environments possible to share their amazing skills to teach, share and grow our students.

In the face of an enemy the likes of whom our nation hasn’t faced since 1918’s Spanish FLU pandemic; we have adapted, we continue to protect our students and staff, and we will do what’s best for our APS community in response to COVID-19.

Joining me in launching COVID-19 Surveillance Testing in Atlanta Public Schools are (from left): Jason Esteves, chairman of the Atlanta Board of Education; Dr. Benjamin Lefkove, CEO and Co-Founder of Viral Solutions; Ron Sanders, President and Co-Founder of Viral Solutions; Anita Williams, our Chief of Schools.

Here are five key health and safety points APS has already put in place:

  1. We have implemented the recommended health and safety protocols in our schools and buildings, including daily health screenings
  2. We have put mitigation strategies in place in our schools and buildings, including providing PPE for teachers, students and staff and other health and safety materials and equipment
  3. We have adopted a comprehensive COVID-19 Testing Strategy districtwide that includes locations throughout the APS community where our students and staff can access testing
  4. We have developed protocols for tracking, monitoring and reporting COVID-19 cases in our schools and district offices, including timely notifications for impacted students and staff; a new and improved dashboard and strengthening our partnership with our local boards of health

    And, we are working with the Fulton County Board of Health and our healthcare partners to accelerate the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for all APS staff

Today, we’re going even further and adding yet another layer of protection.

Atlanta Public Schools is leading the way in educating our students in the safest way possible by providing COVID-19 Surveillance Testing in our schools and buildings. We made this announcement today at M. Agnes Jones Elementary in partnership with Ron Sanders, President and Co-Founder of Viral Solutions, and Dr. Benjamin Lefkove, CEO and Co-Founder of Viral Solutions.

First day of in-person learning at Garden Hills ES

APS is the first PK-12 school district in the state of Georgia to offer surveillance testing, which has been recognized as one of the surest ways to create a safe environment. 

“COVID-19 Surveillance Testing” is the formal medical term for this type of test, which will allow us to detect the presence of COVID-19 in an individual, even if they are asymptomatic.

We will offer this test to our students and staff and will be able to get those results within 24 hours. Surveillance testing will become yet an additional health and mitigation strategy deployed across the District.

While participation in surveillance testing is not required for students, it will be strongly encouraged. The success of this mitigation strategy, and our ability to return and keep students in school, is based on high levels of staff and student participation.

We are exploring all options as it relates to the administration of surveillance testing for staff. We will be implementing staff training,

information sessions, and other staff engagement activities as we make surveillance testing available in our schools and buildings and work to keep everyone safe.

First day back for face-to-face instruction at Cascade ES

You can learn even more about our health and mitigation efforts at www.atlantapublicschools.us/APSProtects.

We are planning to work with Viral Solutions and hope to begin offering this test at several of our schools as early as Friday of this week or no later than early next week. We are working diligently to roll this out.

We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe. And, I want our students, teachers, staff, and the APS community to know that I’m listening. I hear your concerns. They haven’t fallen on deaf ears. But more importantly, I’m acting on your concerns and I continue to evolve our Return+Learn plan with your feedback in mind.

COVID-19 Surveillance Testing

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of surveillance testing?
Surveillance testing is a non-diagnostic test that detects for the presence of COVID-19 in an individual. The benefits of surveillance testing include:

  • Allows districts to test, receive test results (within 24 hours) and notify individuals of a clinically significant reading before coming to school. This benefit would allow us to keep asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers who may pass a daily self-certification out of our school buildings, risking the spread of the virus within our buildings.
  • Allows districts to monitor their own, localized data. This allows districts that have low levels of positivity or case activity to continue the in-person learning experience, even if community data rises or surges. 

WHERE: We will test students and staff at their school and building sites.                                                                                    

WHEN: We hope to make surveillance testing available as soon as the week of February 1, 2021.  

WHY: Surveillance testing for COVID-19 will allow us to quickly identify asymptomatic students and staff and begin the isolation process for these individuals. It will also allow students and staff within close contact to immediately return home, as they will be subject to quarantine by the local health department.

Will surveillance testing replace other mitigation strategies?
No, surveillance testing does not take the place of our current mitigation strategies including wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, practicing good hand hygiene, frequent and regular cleaning and sanitizing, implementing enhanced air ventilation strategies, and monitoring any health concerns or symptoms.

Who can participate in surveillance testing?
At this time, surveillance testing will be offered to staff and all students who have selected the in-person learning model.

Is surveillance testing required?
While participation in surveillance testing is not required for students, it is strongly encouraged. The success of this mitigation strategy, and our ability to return and keep students in school, is

based on high levels of staff and student participation. We are exploring all options as it relates to the administration of surveillance testing for staff. We will be implementing staff training,

information sessions, and other staff engagement activities as we make surveillance testing available in our schools and buildings and work to keep everyone safe.

How are results delivered? 
On designated sample collection days, the Vendor will deliver the samples to the lab. We anticipate results within 24 hours and likely sooner depending on the volume of samples dropped off. The lab informs school health personnel of any bar codes that produce a presumptive positive, and those health personnel then will look up the bar codes, inform those families/staff, and advise them to quarantine and seek a PCR test from their doctor or a state testing center. Students/staff who receive a negative test will not receive any notification.

Who tests the samples?
The District is exploring a partnership with Viral Solutions, LLC. to provide screening services.

How will the privacy of participants be maintained?
Samples are provided with a bar code label that does not include a name. If there is a presumptive positive result, the lab will inform our school health personnel, who will look up the bar code and contact the family or staff member. The lab is not provided with any names of students or staff.  Any nurse documentation related to testing will be maintained within our District with the same level of security and confidentiality as with all student/staff medical information.

What happens if I receive a test result of significant clinical finding (presumed positive case)?
Anyone with a test result of significant clinical finding is presumed positive and will be advised to quarantine and immediately contact their doctor or a state testing center to schedule a PCR test to confirm the results. Students/staff will be excluded from coming to school during the quarantine period unless the PCR test provides a negative result. It is extremely important for our screening participants to know that receiving a presumed positive result is not cause for panic. Please consult with your primary physician/pediatrician and they can best instruct you on the next steps.

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